The Philippines to buy more arms to defend Spratlys, SONA: Aquino

Amid rising tensions with China over the hotly-contested Spratly Islands in the Kalayaan Island Group or Freedom land Philippines, President Benigno Aquino III announced during his State of the Nation Address (SONA) that the Philippines was ready to defend its territory by acquiring more armaments.

"We do not wish to increase tensions with anyone, but we must let the world know that we are ready to protect what is ours," Mr. Aquino said in his State of the Nation Address (SONA), drawing loud applause at the packed House of Representatives.

Mr. Aquino did not mention China, which claims the entire South China Sea including the shore of the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei & Malaysia, where the Spratlys are located, as its own, and has been accused by both the Philippines and Vietnam of becoming increasingly aggressive in staking its claims to the area. But the President clearly referred to Asia's rising military power when he mentioned Recto Bank - internationally known as the Reed Bank - as clearly belonging to the Philippines as a popular downtown Manila Street bears the same name which is 84 Nautical Miles from the shore of Palawan, province of the Philippines which failed to escape from the china’s incursion.

"There was a time when we couldn't appropriately respond to threats in our own backyard. Now, our message to the world is clear: What is ours is ours; setting foot on Recto Bank is no different from setting foot on Recto Avenue, Manila" said Mr. Aquino, whose office announced last month that it was renaming the South China Sea as the "West Philippines Sea".

The President said the Philippines' very first Hamilton-class cutter, which was acquired from the United States, was already on its way to the country.

"We may acquire more vessels in the future, these in addition to helicopters and patrol craft and the weapons that (we) will buy in bulk to get a significant discount," said Mr Aquino, whose country has one of the weakest military forces in the region.

The Philippines has alleged that Chinese forces have repeatedly intruded into Manila-claimed areas in and near the Spratlys since February, including at the Reed Bank. Chinese officials have said there were no intrusions because those waters belonged to China with distance of more than 700 Nautical Miles compare to the Philippines with only 85 Nautical Miles from the Philippines’ shore.

The chain of barren, largely uninhabited islands, reefs and banks in the West Philippines Sea which is also known as South China Sea are claimed in its entirety or partly by China, Taiwan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Brunei. They are believed to be the 4th largest Oil and Gas deposit in the World.

The Philippines has said it intends to bring the Spratlys disputes before the UN's International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea. China opposed the plan and wants to negotiate bilaterally instead which troubled the Philippines because when they will set down with china; China will just say we owned everything..

Mr. Aquino said in his State of the nation Address (SONA) July 25, 2011 that bringing the case before an international arbiter would ensure that "all involved nations approach the dispute with calm and forbearance".

The President's reference to the Spratlys in an address to mark the one-year anniversary of his inauguration followed a visit by Filipino lawmakers on July 20 to a Philippine-occupied island in the disputed area.

The one-day visit to Pag-asa Island led (Freedom Land Visit)

a Chinese Embassy spokesman to say that Beijing would relay its "great concern" to the Philippines government over the trip.

The Philippines' push to secure energy resources in the Spratlys despite China's opposition may ensnare the United States, Manila's treaty ally. Washington has said the peaceful resolution of the territorial disputes and ensuring the freedom of navigation there were in the US' interest, a position that has irked China.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned on Sunday (July 23, 2011) that disputes in the South China Sea threaten to disrupt one of the world's busiest shipping lanes.

There has been an increase in "intimidations, the ramming, the cuttings of cables - the kinds of things that will raise the cost of business for everyone", Mrs Clinton said on Sunday in Bali, Indonesia, where she had attended a meeting of Asian security officials.

" ... It's important for us to support freedom of navigation, unimpeded commerce," she added.

At the Bali meeting, China and the 10-member Association of South-east Asian Nations (ASEAN) agreed to draft guidelines for behaviour in the South China Sea. However, Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario was quoted as saying that with no teeth; even such guidelines would be meaningless.

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