Manila to deploy more floating assets at sea, expects Indian missiles

Manila to deploy more floating assets at sea, expects Indian missiles

By Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza, Reporter

THE PHILIPPINE government will deploy additional floating assets for Filipino fishermen operating within Manila’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the South China Sea, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) said on Wednesday.

The move is among the significant efforts that the Philippines is taking in order to protect its legal claims in one of the world’s most important waterways, with the government reportedly set to receive a cruise missile from India within the month.

“We will have additional floating assets in the West Philippine Sea (the maritime territory of the South China Sea nearest the Philippine archipelago),” BFAR spokesman Nazario Briguera said in Filipino at a news briefing. “And, if I am not mistaken, we have a scheduled trip to Scarborough Shoal, so we can have an onboard livelihood training for fishermen [there].”

Mr. Briguera was referring to the livelihood program named Layag WPS (Livelihood Activities to Enhance Fisheries Yield and Economic Gains from the West Philippine Sea), which the BFAR launched in June last year to expand fishing activities in the area.

The BFAR official said the government has allotted P80 million for the project as there are 385,000 Filipino fishermen who are benefitting from the West Philippine Sea.

Part of the project is distributing fuel subsidies, new fishing tools, and postharvest equipment to Filipino fishermen who frequent the fishing grounds.

The Philippines seeks to shift its focus to external defense from internal security amid China’s incursions into its EEZ in the South China Sea, allocating more funds for agencies on the frontlines of protecting the maritime territory over which Manila has asserted sovereign rights based on internationally accepted laws.

Meanwhile, defense news site EurAsian Times reported on Wednesday that the Philippines is set to receive an Indian-made supersonic cruise missile this month.

The BrahMos missile, the deal for it was signed in 2022, will be delivered to the Philippine Navy “in a week,” it said.

Don Mclain Gill, an international relations lecturer at the De La Salle University, noted that the expected delivery of the Indian-made supersonic cruise missile underlines the Philippines’ growing diplomatic network in the face of an increasingly belligerent China.

It “comes at a time when China has been ramping up its provocative maneuvers in the West Philippine Sea,” he said in a Facebook Messenger chat.

“The procurement of the supersonic cruise missile system will be an important stepping stone for the Philippines to improve its sea control, anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD), and coastal and island defense operations,” he added.

He said acquisition of the BrahMos missile sends a signal to Beijing that “Manila is serious about pursuing its national interest based on international law.”

“The delivery of the BrahMos to the Philippines will add more momentum to the growing Philippines-India security partnership,” Mr. Gill said.