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The Philippines Will Keep Buying Weapons From South Korea

June 25, 2019

Via Wikimedia Commons.

A recent “Joint Committee Meeting on Logistics and Defence Industry Cooperation” held in Metro Manila on June 10 paved the way for upcoming collaboration between the Philippine government and South Korean manufacturers. Details were shared by the Department of National Defense (DND) on June 13 after a successful conference at the PICC, a state-owned venue. The DND specified three activities where South Korean firms will assist its oldest ally Southeast Asia: procurement supply, acquisition and transfer of equipment, and government-to-government projects.

The present composition of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is almost entirely reliant on South Korean equipment. No branch is exempt, be it the Philippine Air Froce (PAF) or the “modernized” Philippine Navy, even the Philippine marines can boast of their new Korean-made tracked amphibious carriers.

The June 10 conference, which was billed as the 22nd installment of a long-running dialogue, was held between civilian government officials from both countries, with the participation of the DND and AFP “technical working groups.” The latter are small teams who undertake research on the costs of specific acquisitions. South Korean firms were also present although only Hyundai and Hanwha were mentioned in the DND’s press release on the event. To acknowledge these two manufacturers is telling, however, as both are commercial enterprises with immense portfolios of export-ready military products.

Hyundai Heavy Industries in particular is the most important partner of the DND and AFP at the moment. No less than the broad modernization push that’s transforming the Philippine military is hinged on the arrival of Hyundai’s two multi-mission frigates. The Jose Rizal-class ships will be delivered fully equipped with Korean-made subsystems and the PN have two Leonardo AW159 Wildcat multirole naval helicopters waiting for them. The importance of these frigates can’t be ignored; without these vessels, the PN is left with no major surface combatants and will be unable to exercise control over the Philippines’ vast maritime domain. If the PN can’t perform this mission, the rest of the AFP suffers as a result–shore-based defenses are almost non-existent.

The engineering giant Hanwha is another vital part of the AFP’s modernization push. Its ongoing discussions with the Philippine military aren’t acknowledged yet but Hanwha’s catalog appeals to all three branches. Foremost is the PN, since Hanwha supplies on-board weapon systems and critical parts to warships, including submarine batteries. The PN, in fact, are determined to acquire its own submarines and have traveled far and wide looking for a viable model.

Hanwha are also the likeliest partners for the Philippine Army’s (PA) own quest to acquire a battalion of “light tanks.” Hanhwa is responsible for the variant of its well-known IFV that mounts a turret supplied by the vehicle engineering firm John Cockerill, formerly known as CMI Defence. The K21-105 is an optimal choice for ground forces who want to avoid fielding an expensive third-generation main battle tank without compromising on firepower. Hanwha does guarantee end users have broad choices for upgrading the protective features on its light tank.

Other verticals that Hanwha specializes in are artillery and remote weapon stations–both vital to the army although Israel has cornered previous deals for supplying these. If its true the PA are exploring further options for precision weapons, Hanwha does boast of the Chunmoo rocket artillery system on a 6×6 truck chassis. Hanwha offers an upgrade for older 105mm howitzers too.

With a larger budget at its disposal, the DND is undertaking numerous programs to achieve limited self-sufficiency. For this reason, other South Korean firms such as Kia, LIG Nex1, and S&T Motiv may all participate in transferring production to the Government Arsenal Defense Industrial Estate (GADIE). The extent of collaboration and deal making between Manila and Seoul is undeniable proof the Philippines has its priorities in order. Familiar allies, rather than a tenuous friendship with China, are here for the long haul.

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