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Japan Plans To Modernize The Philippine Military

October 16, 2019

Via Wikimedia Commons.

A very significant government-to-government conference took place in Metro Manila this month. Japan’s defense ministry organized the gathering and welcomed representatives of local state-owned enterprises to discuss transferring military technology by various means. The occasion titled “Inaugural Philippines-Japan Defense Industry Forum” was held on October 2 at a venue in Taguig, the sub-city where the Philippines’ premier business district is located.

An upbeat press release from the Department of National Defense (DND) circulated the following day described the event as “beneficial” for the Philippine military, which is still modernizing its different branches to face external threats. The DND made it clear that its own “Defense Acquisition System Teams/Technical Working Groups” sought to “learn and understand Japan’s defense technologies.”

The participating organizations at the event included DND-Logistics and Acquisitions, the Philippine Aerospace and Development Corporation (PADC), Philippine International Trading Corporation (PITC). A little known office of Japan’s defense ministry called the “International Cooperation Division” was the organizer and prime mover at the forum. Further information on what was discussed at the venue is unreported but the participation of PADC and PITC are telling clues. PADC is a state-owned facility for aircraft maintenance that’s also involved with a short-lived indigenous unmanned systems project. PITC, on the other hand, is responsible for finding ways to launch “industrial collaboration” in sensitive DND projects and import the needed equipment for such.

The October 2 event in Taguig is the latest proof a deep and lasting alliance has grown between Manila and Tokyo now that Beijing has embraced an aggressive foreign policy. Japan’s generous efforts to aid the Philippines in its territorial dispute with China has now stretched a handful of years. Beginning in 2015 and until the present, limited quantities of material aid reached the Philippine military, including a small fleet of propeller-driven scout planes. A regular schedule of exercises and goodwill visits between the two militaries has built a strong rapport and just last month warships of the JMSDF docked in Philippine Navy bases twice.

If this alliance seems intense it must be pointed out how modest its scope is at present. Japan can’t export any weapon systems nor does it intend to. There are “gray” options, however, and if helping the Philippines acquire the know-how and tools for at least assembling littoral seacraft is an un-mentioned goal, this goes a long way. Manila enjoys a variety of defense agreements with neighbors and common suppliers. Australia and the US, the two other members of the “Quad Alliance,” are in the process of arranging arms deals to aid the DND with the blessing of the Dutetrte administration, whose own foreign policy goals are binding alliances with China and Russia.

Japan isn’t the only supplier to the Philippine military. A separate set of agreements and events directed at strengthening ties with South Korea have the same goal, which is to help the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) acquire and sustain its own deterrent assets such as new maritime helicopters and actual warships. There are several medium-term programs under the AFP’s Horizon II modernization plans where South Korean firms may supply the equipment or transfer the technology needed for manufacturing these at a state-owned industrial park known as GADIE.

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