The Philippine military is looking to acquire a decommissioned corvette from the South Korean Navy within the year in just the latest step the Southeast Asian state is taking to boost the country’s limited capabilities amid a range of maritime challenges.
As I have noted before, despite some vigorous efforts at stepping up military modernization during the previous administration of Benigno Aquino III following anemic periods in the past, the Philippines still remains one of Asia’s weakest militaries and it is building from a very low base (See: “The Truth About Philippine Military Modernization and the China Threat”).
South Korea has been a key partner for the Philippines as it attempts to boost its defense capabilities. Though the defense relationship has been growing in other areas too, the aspect that receives the most public attention is the defense deals that Seoul has been involved in, most notably the transfer of 12 FA-50 fighter jets to Manila by state-owned Korea Aerospace Industries (See: “South Korea, Philippines Deepen Military Ties”). This is despite Chinese attempts to discourage such agreements from taking place.
This partnership continues to progress even under Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, despite his insistence on a more “independent” foreign policy that aims to diversify his country’s relationships away from the United States – which both Manila and Seoul share as a treaty ally – and towards other influential actors including China and Russia (See: “The Limits of Duterte’s China-US Rebalance”).
This week, we saw another potential manifestation of this partnership, with the Philippines publicly announcing its desire to acquire a decommissioned Pohang-class corvette from South Korea within the year.
“We have sent a letter to the Government of South Korea expressing our intent to acquire one Pohang class corvette. We are hoping to receive the vessel within the year,” Arsenio Andolong, the public affairs chief of the Philippine Department of National Defense (DND), told the Philippine News Agency Thursday.
Andolong said that though the transfer will be in the form of a donation, the Philippines will pay a token fee of $100. In addition, the Philippines will also shoulder the cost of the necessary refurbishment for the corvette.
No further details were publicly provided about when exactly the vessel would arrive, how much the refurbishment cost would be, and whether the transfer will also include the ship’s weapons and sensors. But Andolong did say that the ship would boost the Philippine Navy’s ability to patrol the country’s territorial waters against threats including piracy and terrorism.