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Philippines gunning for fast and massive military build-up

MANILA – “We are not satisfied with minimum [deterrence capability alone]…movement is life, stagnation is death,” Colonel Micheal Logico, a top strategist at the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), recently told this reporter when asked about the country’s evolving defense strategy. “We [need] to elevate ourselves into a world-class armed forces,” he added.

Confronting a mighty China, the Philippines is undergoing a once-in-a-century defense buildup that if all goes to plan could transform it into a formidable military “middle power.” This year, top Philippine defense officials have announced their decision to pursue the acquisition of multiple submarines as part of a massive US$36 billion defense spending package.

“We do not only [need] one submarine, we need two or three [at least],” Commodore Roy Vincent Trinidad, spokesperson of the Philippine Navy for the West Philippines, recently told media. Under “Horizon Three”, the third phase of a 15-year-old defense modernization plan that began in 2012, the Philippines is also set to acquire modern fighter jets, warships and missile systems.

Next month, the Philippines is also set to receive India’s much-vaunted Brahmos supersonic missile system, which is seen as a likely precursor to even more sophisticated acquisitions in the future.

“It is a real game-changer because it brings the Philippines to the supersonic age. For the first time in our history, the Philippines will have three batteries of supersonic cruise missiles that have a speed of (Mach 2.8) or almost 3x (times) the speed of sound,” said National Security Council spokesman Jonathan Malaya.

The Southeast Asian nation wants to develop its conventional and asymmetric military capabilities as it prepares for