The Philippines has added a decommissioned US Coast Guard cutter to its small naval fleet, as the island nation steps up patrols in order to counter the Chinese in contested waters.
"It will further intensify our patrolling of the Philippines' exclusive economic zone and our capability to quell any threat and bad elements, respond to search and rescue operations and take care of our marine resources," said Philippines President Benigno Aquino III Monday, according to the Associated Press.
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"Now that BRP Alcaraz has arrived, we will surely intensify our patrols in the Philippines' exclusive economic zone," Aquino added according to AFP, a clear statement of intent that China is sure to take note of — although the president made no direct reference to the rival Asian nation in his speech.
Aquino was present to welcomed the newly-christened navy frigate BRP Ramon Alcaraz to Subic Bay, where it arrived after a two-month-long journey, all the way from the United States.
The 88-man crew of Filipino soldiers aboard the warship have been undergoing intense naval training in the US for fourteen months, wrote Inquirer News, as the Philippines seeks to build its naval capacity to counter increasing Chinese assertiveness in the region.
The new BRP Alcaraz will join the BRP Gregorio del Pilar as the second Hamilton class cutter vessel to join the Philippines small-but-growing naval fleet.
The government spent $15 million in total to add the Alcaraz to the fleet, wrote Voice of America, in the wake of Aquino's May announcement of a $1.8 billion infusion to the Philippine's military upgrade program — which is set to include "half a squadron or 12 fighter jets, two frigates and an air-surveillance radar system."