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Rebuilding while performing: Military modernisation in the Philippines

By Peter Chalk

The Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) is engaged in a concerted effort to modernise its military into a service that’s capable of projecting a posture of credible external deterrence. Its overarching goal is to equip the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) with the necessary capabilities to protect the territorial integrity of the state, offset evolving foreign defence challenges, and ensure the attainment of Manila’s strategic maritime interests—particularly as they relate to claims in the South China Sea (SCS).

The US, which has a long and established history of security ties with the Philippines, has a vested interest in supporting the GRP’s current defence transformation plans, as this could help to counter Beijing’s assumed intent to exert uncontested sovereignty over the SCS. The paper considers how the US could assist while avoiding force postures that could provoke China.

Moves by the GRP to enhance the Philippines’ external force posture in the SCS also have implications for Australia. The author considers the argument for the realignment of aid to enable a sharper focus on promoting AFP force projection but gives reasons why this would be unwise.