The Philippines: We’ll keep US military ties as we ‘warm’ to China: Philippine armed forces chief

  • The Philippine military will maintain close ties with the United States and train with its forces even as it gets closer to China, the new armed forces chief told lawmakers in his confirmation hearing this week.
  • General Gilbert Gapay said that “while our ties with China are warming up, it doesn’t mean we are abandoning our ties with the United States and other traditional allies, we are maintaining all these ties with allied countries”.
  • The armed forces chief said “we continue to send our personnel to the United States to train with them” and “we have been receiving [maintenance support] from the US through foreign funding … the grants still continue”.
  • According to Gapay, “the bulk of our equipment is still US-made and we are really dependent on the US for maintenance”.
  • He told congressmen and senators that the Philippine armed forces received “roughly USD50mn a year for the maintenance of our aircraft, naval vessels and ground equipment like tanks”.
  • In his confirmation hearing, Gapay said that “while we are strictly adhering to a diplomatic, peaceful and rules-based approach in dealing with the issues in the South China Sea, this soft approach doesn’t mean we are abandoning our claim to that area”.
  • Gapay was appointed to his position on 3 Aug 20, and the senate confirmed him after the hearing.
  • Opposition senator Risa Hontiveros said she voted to confirm because Gapay “vowed that the military will continue to defend the country’s sovereignty and the people’s interests amid China’s provocations”.

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