US Congress okays transfer of 2nd warship to Philippines
AP, with Florante Solmerin
See also: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p40hQzZmXwA
THE US Congress has approved the transfer of a second Coast Guard ship to the Philippines, an official said Friday, as Washington shifts its military ties with Manila that has been engaged in a territorial dispute with China.
Assistant US State Secretary Andrew Shapiro told reporters he would consider a Philippine request to have the warship turned over with as much military equipment as possible.
That drew a sharp reaction from the Communist Party of the Philippines which on Friday said the US military was preparing the Philippine Navy as its front-line orce against China in connection with the brewing conflict over the Spratly Islands.
“The transfer of another cutter from the US government serves the purpose of US military buildup in the South China Sea,” the group said in a statement.
“Through such, the US is able to employ the Philippine Navy as an augmentation force in the course of its operations to permanently project its military presence and power in the area and secure the trade routes and Asian markets in the interest of US monopoly capitalist companies.
Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin on Monday confirmed there had been talks about the Philippines acquiring another Hamilton-class cutter.
The Philippine Navy acquired its first cutter from the US Coast Guard last year and renamed the 1967-commissioned ship BRP Gregorio del Pilar (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RFGKDwSAPNU). The Navy then deployed the ship to the West Philippine Sea to patrol the area.
The CPP said the transfer of a second cutter to the Navy would further heighten the tension in the disputed Spratlys and provke China.
On Thursday, officials of the US congress announced that its Foreign Relations Committee was about to wrap up its decision to transfer the US naval cutter Dallas (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USCGC_Dallas_(WHEC-716)) by the end of the week and planned to sail it to the Philippines soon thereafter, the group said.
But defense and military officials have said the acquisition of war equipment is part of the Armed Forces’ long-stalled modernization program, and that it has nothing to do with the dispute over the Spratly Islands.
The government had earlier announced it was also negotiating with the US government the acquisition of several F-16 fighters.
Last week, Gazmin and other officials went to Italy to sign a five-year contract to acquire fighter-bomber jets, frigates and destroyers and unmanned surveillance aircraft.