Defense Update: Philippines Steps Up Military Modernization Phase

Defense Update | July 3, 2018
Authors: Jack Myint and Piranat Viriyaprapaikit
 
THE COUNCIL'S TAKE
 
 

Philippines Steps Up Military Modernization Phase
On June 21, Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte approved the purchase of multi-role fighter jets (MRF) as part of the Philippine Air Force (PAF)’s Horizon 2 modernization program. The Horizon 2 modernization program is a five-year program to recapitalize the department’s obsolete equipment and upgrade military facilities. With implementation plans from 2018-2022, the budget has been set to approximately 300 billion Philippine pesos (US$5.6 billion) and will be split among the three military branches accordingly: US$890 million for the Army, US$1.44 billion for the Navy, and US$2.61 billion for the Air Force, with the rest of the budget going to the military’s General Headquarters and the government’s arsenal, according to defense department spokesperson Arsenio Andolong on June 20.

Following the Shangri-La Dialogue in June 2018, Philippine’s Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter S. Cayetano and United States Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo met up to discuss the Philippines-US alliance and opportunities to enhance bilateral trade, increase security cooperation, and strengthen ties. With the South China Sea dispute being a priority issue in the Indo-Pacific region, the Horizon 2 program will encompass the acquisition of multirole fighters, airlifters, maritime patrol aircraft and heavy lift helicopters for the Air Force, while the Army is seeking more artillery, light tanks and multiple rocket launchers.

Royal Thai Army Prepares Attack Helicopter Acquisition
On June 14, Major General Weerayuth Intaworn, the director of the Army Aviation Center (AAC), announced that the Royal Thai Army is seeking to acquire at least six new attack helicopters in order to replace its aging fleet of Bell AH-1F Cobra combat helicopters. The new attack helicopters under review include the Mil Mi-28 and Kamov Ka-52 from Russia, the Bell AH-1Z Viper and Boeing AH-64 Apache, Airbus Helicopters’ Tiger, Leonardo’s AW129 Mangusta, and the Z-19 Black Whirlwind produced by China’s Harbin Aircraft Industry Group.

The acquisition plan commenced after the Thai Military unveiled a new US$10 Billion Defense and Security budget for the 2019 fiscal year. Pending approval by the National Legislative Assembly, the budget is broken down into: US$7 billion for defense maintenance and procurement with an additional US$3 billion in security spending to manage new threats, maintain internal peace and order, prevent transnational crimes and cyber-attacks, as well as to protect the monarchy. Overall, the allotted defense spending is a 4.2 percent increase from that of 2018, and constitutes approximately 7.6 percent of total government spending. Though most likely to pass within the next few months, the budget is technically still under consideration and there is little to no public information on any further details. The Council will continue to closely monitor any new developments on this front and keep members apprised.

Thailand Hosts U.S. Pacific Partnership Exercise

On May 20-22, the Royal Thai Armed Forces hosted the Pacific Partnership exercise in Thailand for the first time since the exercise’s first iteration in 2006. Initiated after the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, the annual Pacific Partnership mission serve as the largest annual multinational humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) preparedness mission conducted in the Indo-Pacific. With 130 military personnel from the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia, the mission included medical, dental, and veterinary subject matter expert exchanges at Queen Sikrit Naval Hospital, tours of the Disaster Relief Training Center, and cooperation between local professionals and non-governmental organizations on HADR readiness. Another important focus was to ensure that Thai disaster management systems are on par with U.S. standards, and that the Thai military has effective response mechanisms to natural disasters. Thailand’s involvement with the Pacific Partnership marks an important milestone in U.S.-Thailand military relations and a reaffirmation of the strong military relations the two countries have long enjoyed. To read the Council’s past update on an uptick in US-Thailand mil-to-mil relations, please click here.

Balikatan 2018 Reaffirms Strong U.S.-Philippines Military Ties

The 34th iteration of Balikatan, the largest annual U.S.-Philippine military exercise, commenced from May 7-18 at various locations throughout Luzon. Larger in both size and scope than last year's exercise, Balikatan 2018 reaffirms the strong defense ties between the United States and the Philippines. Some analysts have raised concerns that Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte would continue to try to scale back this mil to mil relationship given his efforts to improve relations with China.

Since Duterte took office at the end of June 2016, analysts have looked at Balikatan as an indirect metric for the health of broader U.S.-Philippines relations, given the strong, long-standing military ties between the two countries. Duterte's efforts to scale down the size and scope of the annual exercise in 2017, while also threatening on multiple occasions to rip up the 2014 Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, the latest in a string of U.S.-Philippines Defense Treaties intended to progressively deepen security ties, reinforced this perception. From this perspective, Balikatan 2018 marks a noticeable improvement due to an overall increase in the number of U.S. and Philippine soldiers participating in the exercise and the types of activities comprising it. Unlike last year, where humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) and counterterrorism where the main focus, this year's exercise emphasize interoperability training and mutual defense operations. Counterterrorism was once again a focus of Balikatan, but unlike in previous years the focus was on military operations in urban areas, a consequence of the 5-month-long Islamic State-linked siege in Marawi city last year. With more than 8,000 combined troops participating, an increase from the 5,500 combined troops last year, this year's Balikatan is regarded as the largest military exercise under the Duterte administration thus far.

Looking ahead, joint counterterrorism efforts will continue to be a key driver in U.S.-Philippines defense cooperation. While U.S. forces reportedly were not engaged in combat during the siege of Marawi, the United States did provide intelligence support, including the use of two new military surveillance aircraft, and urban warfare training to Armed Forces of the Philippines troops participating in combat operations. In September 2017, the two governments participated in a Counterterrorism Crisis Response Drill to test and improve the ability of both nations to rapidly plan, coordinate and conduct counterterrorism operations. In the same month, the United States also upgraded its Operation Pacific Eagle mission in the Philippines to an Overseas Contingency Operation, with a focus on fighting extremist groups.

IN THIS UPDATE
 
 
ASEAN
China Adds Advanced Missiles to South China Sea Islands
Indian Defense Firm Opens First Office in Vietnam to Explore East Asian Market
Escalation of Sino-US Tension Hurts Southeast Asian Coastal States

Brunei
Challenges Ahead for Brunei’s Military as It Marks 57 Years
What's Next for Vietnam-Brunei Navy Ties?
Weapon Sales Talk Puts Indonesia-Brunei Defense Ties in the Spotlight

Cambodia
Cambodia’s Military Apparatus Overhauled Ahead of Tense Election
China pledges over $100 million military aid to Cambodia

Indonesia
Japan, Indonesia Strengthen Maritime Ties Amid 60th Anniversary
IAF readies for ‘pitch black’ tour, war games with Indonesia and Malaysia
Indonesia’s New Attack Helicopters Put Spotlight on US-Indonesia Defense Ties
Indonesian Air Force to go ahead with Hercules aircraft purchase plan

Malaysia
PressTV-'Malaysia pulling forces out of Saudi-led coalition'
Malaysian govt & defense agencies to use Hughes JUPITER system
Singapore, Malaysia agree to boost bilateral defence ties
Malaysian Government to Investigate Scorpene, other Defense Deals during Najib’s Tenure
Defence ministry mulls improving facilities, incentives
Malaysia to remain neutral state in South China Sea dispute, defence minister says

Myanmar
Myanmar fires general who led campaign against Rohingya
Vietnam, Myanmar promote defence cooperation

Philippines
Treachery of the ‘fog of war’
Philippines steps up upgrading of military facilities
US 'supercarrier' in Philippine waters for routine patrol
US: Alliance with Philippines unmatched
Cayetano meets with US counterpart, reaffirms security ties with US
Cayetano: PHL, China ‘co-control’ Scarborough
Philippine troops clash with remnants of defeated Islamist group
Duterte: You cannot scare China
June 28 peace talks with Reds cancelled
US military provides new equipment to Philippine marines
More than 1,600 Chinese structures in South China Sea

Singapore
SAF acquires new fighting machines to do more with less, will reveal replacement for F-16 fighter jets soon
Singapore takes over command of multi-national counter-piracy task force
Govts, private firms need to join hands against new threats posed by rapid technological change: DPM Teo
Public and private sector partnerships in defence technology throw up ‘tough questions and moral dilemmas’: Ng Eng Hen
New $14 million centre will aim to improve maritime safety
SAF evolving to deal with terrorism and cyberthreats
Two senior civil servants to step down, including incoming SMRT CEO Neo Kian Hong

Thailand
New Drones Highlight Thailand-Israel Defense Cooperation
Thailand Introduces Elbit’s Hermes 450 UAS
Thai junta seeks $10 billion in new security budget
Thailand developing closer ties with the US
Vocational training for inmates aims to help them re-integrate

Vietnam
India-Vietnam Defense Relations in the Spotlight with Bilateral Visit  
What’s Next for EU-Vietnam Defense Ties?
India-Vietnam Defense Ties in the Spotlight With Naval Exercise
Việt Nam to participate in US-hosted naval exercise for first time
UN selects Việt Nam as training site for peacekeeping forces
Bình Thuận: criminal proceedings launched against riot instigators
NA examines draft revision of Law on People’s Public Security Force
President voices support for stronger Việt Nam-India defence ties
New law to scale down military-owned businesses
U.S. urges delay in vote on Vietnam's cybersecurity bill
 
ARTICLE CLIPS
 
 
ASEAN

China Adds Advanced Missiles to South China Sea Islands Washington Free Beacon 14th Jun 2018
China's military has stepped up militarizing disputed islands in the South China Sea by deploying advanced missile systems on the Spratly islands, according to the Pentagon. Defense officials disclosed to the Washington Free Beacon that the militarization has raised alarm bells about China's creeping takeover of the strategic waterway used for some $5 trillion annually in international trade.

Indian Defense Firm Opens First Office in Vietnam to Explore East Asian Market Sputnik 13th Jun 2018
India aims to achieve a turnover of $26 billion in defense goods and services by 2025, including exports to the tune of $5 billion in the next seven years, according to the draft Defense Production Policy 2018 which was floated in March this year. New Delhi (Sputnik): In an attempt to capture the defense market in East Asia, India's state-owned firm and country's leading defense electronic company Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) opened its first-ever representative office in Vietnam on Wednesday.

Escalation of Sino-US Tension Hurts Southeast Asian Coastal States VOA 4th Jun 2018
A U.S. pledge to keep sailing navy vessels through the disputed South China Sea, which Beijing calls its own, could spark a military escalation that may hurt the interests of Southeast Asian states, analysts say. U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis said on May 29 the United States will continue sending ships near the sea’s contested islands. China, the dominant military force in the 3.5 million-square-kilometer sea, considers the U.S. maneuvers interference in Chinese waters. Scholars say China has landed a bomber and deployed missiles to islets under its control largely because of the U.S. ship movement.

Brunei

Challenges Ahead for Brunei’s Military as It Marks 57 Years The Diplomat 3rd Jul 2018
On July 1, Brunei finally held this year’s iteration of an annual parade to mark the 57th anniversary of its military, the Royal Brunei Armed Forces (RBAF). Brunei has made several inroads in its defense development over the past decade or two, including purchasing equipment such as helicopters and patrol vessels, constructing defense facilities, and strengthening partnerships with foreign militaries. But the reality is that despite a range of security challenges it needs to address, of late the small, oil-rich Southeast Asian state has struggled to fund its defense needs over the past few years due to broader economic challenges.

What's Next for Vietnam-Brunei Navy Ties? The Diplomat 3rd Jul 2018
Earlier this week, Vietnam’s naval chief paid a visit to Brunei. Though the interaction was just the latest in ongoing defense ties between the two Southeast Asian states, it nonetheless shed light on the cooperation underway in the naval domain among the two Southeast Asian states amid broader trends and developments and the future trajectory of relations in this area. Brunei and Vietnam, two fellow Southeast Asian states, have had a defense relationship in place as part of their wider bilateral ties, and in recent years, that has gradually grown to include a more formal naval component as well. Particularly following the signing of a memorandum of understanding on bilateral cooperation by the Royal Brunei Navy (RBN) and the Vietnam People’s Army (VPN) in 2013, both sides have been looking for opportunities to strengthen naval ties in various areas including goodwill visits, training, and boosting communication, while also managing some challenges, whether it be on illegal fishing or responding to China’s growing maritime assertiveness in the South China Sea as claimants (See: “Why Vietnam’s New Coast Guard Law Matters”).

Weapon Sales Talk Puts Indonesia-Brunei Defense Ties in the Spotlight The Diplomat 6th Jun 2018
One of the agenda items that made headlines during Brunei’s Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah’s visit to Indonesia last week was discussions around defense equipment. Though these discussions are by no means new and specifics remain unclear, they nonetheless once again put the defense relationship between the two countries in the spotlight.

Cambodia

Cambodia’s Military Apparatus Overhauled Ahead of Tense Election VOA 13th Jun 2018
A close aide to Prime Minister Hun Sen and his eldest son have been promoted to the leading roles in the Cambodian military ahead of July’s general election, according to a report. According to the Deum Ampil news report, which cited a source in the defense ministry, Sao Sokha, the military police commander and close associate of Hun Sen, and the longtime leader’s son, Hun Manet, were promoted to the roles of acting commander-in-chief and acting deputy commander-in-chief, respectively.

China pledges over $100 million military aid to Cambodia Reuters 19th Jun 2018
PHNOM PENH (Reuters) - China has granted more than $100 million in military aid to Cambodia, Cambodia said on Tuesday, highlighting the strong ties between Beijing and a government that critics accuse of destroying democracy ahead of an election next month. Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling party is expected to easily win the general election on July 29 as the Supreme Court dissolved the main opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) last November at the government’s request.

Indonesia

Japan, Indonesia Strengthen Maritime Ties Amid 60th Anniversary The Diplomat 2nd Jul 2018
Japan will help build fishing port facilities on Indonesia’s remote islands, including on the southern edge of the South China Sea. The 2.5 billion yen ($23 million) grant was confirmed during a trip to Jakarta by Japan’s Foreign Minister Taro Kono, who agreed with his Indonesian counterpart, Retno Marsudi, that the two countries would enhance cooperation in a range of fields. The June 25 meeting was billed as the sixth Strategic Dialogue between Indonesia and Japan. The ministers witnessed the signing of an exchange of notes “to increase cooperation in the development of fisheries centers in six outer islands of Indonesia in Biak, Moa, Morotai, Natuna, Sabang and Saumlaki,” said a summary published by the Indonesian government.

IAF readies for ‘pitch black’ tour, war games with Indonesia and Malaysia The Economic Times 29th Jun 2018
NEW DELHI: The Indian Air Force (IAF) is priming its jets for simulated war games in Australia, Indonesia and Malaysia, in exercises spreading over more than a month that will see at least four Su 30 MKI fighters, a C 130 J special operations aircraft and a support C 17 transporter carry out military maneuvers. In Australia, the IAF will participate, for the first time, in the mega `Ex Pitch Black’ exercise which will involve over 100 aircraft from nine nations, officials aware of the programme told ET. Seeking to maximise resource utilisation, the IAF will engage in maiden aerial war games with Indonesia and Malaysia before and after the Australia drill.

Indonesia’s New Attack Helicopters Put Spotlight on US-Indonesia Defense Ties The Diplomat 4th Jun 2018
Last week, the United States and Indonesia held a ceremony to commemorate the completed delivery of Apache Guardian helicopters to the Southeast Asian state. The event once again placed the spotlight on the defense realm in the U.S.-Indonesia strategic partnership and the efforts by Jakarta to step up its military modernization efforts the United States and Indonesia have long shared a defense relationship, and that has continued to broaden over the years with some previous restrictions eased as well. U.S. policymakers have recognized that for all the limitations inherent in the U.S.-Indonesia relationship, Jakarta is nonetheless a significant actor in Southeast Asia and an important partner in addressing a wide range of security challenges. That pattern has continued on with U.S. President Donald Trump, as evidenced by several developments including U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’ visit to Indonesia in January.

Indonesian Air Force to go ahead with Hercules aircraft purchase plan Antara News 28th Jun 2018
The Indonesian Air Force (TNI AU) will go ahead with its plan to purchase Hercules aircraft of type J to replace its aging fleet, Air Force Chief of Staff Marshal Yuyu Sutisna stated.

Malaysia

PressTV-'Malaysia pulling forces out of Saudi-led coalition' PressTV 28th Jun 2018
Malaysia says it is pulling its troops out of the Saudi-led military coalition, which has been relentlessly pounding impoverished Yemen in an imposed war for the past three years. “The Cabinet made the decision (to bring soldiers home) last week. We are waiting for the preparations carried out by the Armed Forces,” Malaysia’s Defense Minister Mohamad Sabu told journalists in a select media interview at the ministry in the capital Kuala Lumpur on Thursday. “We are also waiting for the cooperation from the Foreign Affairs Ministry that will assist in the move,” he added.

Malaysian govt & defense agencies to use Hughes JUPITER system SpaceTech Asia 26th Jun 2018
Hughes Network Systems today announced that it has been selected by Mutiara Smart Sdn Bhd to deploy the JUPITER System and bring enterprise-grade, managed network services to Malaysian government and defense agencies. Mutiara Smart is a Malaysian Government Owned Company (GOC) under the Ministry of Finance and provider of network telecommunication and IT services. The Hughes solution selected by Mutiara Smart includes the HG220 JUPITER Gateway, remote terminals, and a network management system to deliver both C- and Ku-band capacity from two satellites cost-effectively across all of Malaysia. The system features enhanced networking technology for increased efficiencies as well as a 5IF interface capable of supporting multiple bands and transponders across up to five satellites, ensuring future scalability.

Singapore, Malaysia agree to boost bilateral defence ties The Straits Times 4th Jun 2018
Defense Minister Ng Eng Hen and his newly minted counterpart from Malaysia Mohamad Sabu agreed yesterday to strengthen bilateral defence ties. During their first official meeting, which took place on the sidelines of the Shangri-La Dialogue, the pair affirmed the warm and longstanding defence relations between their countries, Singapore's Ministry of Defence said in a statement. The ministers noted the good progress made in bilateral defence relations, such as the recent conduct of a new exercise between the two countries' air forces.

Malaysian Government to Investigate Scorpene, other Defense Deals during Najib’s Tenure Defenseworld.net 4th Jun 2018
Malaysia’s newly formed government will conduct its own internal probe and audit in regard to defense spending under the previous administration, the new Defense Minister Mohamad Sabu has said. “We will investigate. If it is based on hearsay, it can have a negative effect on the image of individuals or departments. If there are (issues and scandals) with evidence obtained from detailed investigation and internal audits and, if necessary, we will use external audits, and if serious, we will take it to the Cabinet. We will not act wildly based on what we hear,” Sabu was quoted as saying in his first address to the press by Today Online Tuesday. Mohamad said he needed to get the complete information of all Malaysian Armed Forces services before looking in detail at issues and scandals within the MAF, including the purchase of the Scorpene submarines as well as other issues which were raised by non-governmental organisations. A former aide to Malaysia’s former Prime Minister Najib Razak was placed under formal investigation in August last year as part of an alleged kickbacks probe into purchase of two Scorpene submarines from French shipyard DCNS (now Naval group) in 2002. The accused Razak Baginda, who was an advisor to Najib was arrested after Malaysian human rights group Suaram claimed that a commission of $130 million was being siphoned off to a company linked to Najib in the Eur 1 billion sale. Two French former defense industry executives were also placed under investigation as part of the same probe in September last year.

Defence ministry mulls improving facilities, incentives Free Malaysia Today 5th Jun 2018
KUALA LUMPUR: The Defence Ministry will be conducting a study to improve facilities and incentives for Malaysian Armed Forces (ATM) personnel and veterans. Its Minister Mohamad Sabu said incentives received by ATM personnel should be aligned with the country’s economic situation.

Malaysia to remain neutral state in South China Sea dispute, defence minister says Yahoo News 4th Jun 2018
KUALA LUMPUR, June 4 — Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu reaffirmed today Malaysia’s stance as a neutral state amid growing hostilities over the South China Sea. Freshly returned from Singapore where he represented the country at the 17th Shangri-La Dialogue, Mohamad said he spoke about Malaysia’s wish to pursue peaceful solutions and keep Southeast Asia free from armed conflict with US Secretary of Defence John Mattis in a 20-minute four eye meeting.

Myanmar

Myanmar fires general who led campaign against Rohingya Washington Post 25th Jun 2018
Under pressure from Canada and the European Union, the Myanmar military on Monday dismissed a general who is alleged to have led a brutal campaign against Rohingya Muslims last year. It was an unexpected move, one that suggests the military may be prepared to accept some measure of accountability for the crisis. Even as it announced the firing of Major Gen. Maung Maung Soe, however, the military leadership stopped short of blaming him for the operations. The general, it said, displayed “weakness” in the face of militant attacks on police outposts in the country’s western Rakhine state in 2016 and 2017, according to a statement from the office of the commander in chief of defense services, Min Aung Hlaing, that was posted on Facebook.

Vietnam, Myanmar promote defence cooperation Nhan Dan 14th Jun 2018
During a working visit to Myanmar from June 8-12 of a Vietnamese military delegation led by Deputy Minister of National Defence Sen. Lieut. Gen. Tran Don, the two sides discussed measures to deepen their bilateral defence links on a par with the comprehensive cooperative partnership between the two nations.

Philippines

Treachery of the ‘fog of war’ BusinessMirror 1st Jul 2018
IN May last year, it took the Marawi siege for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to learn its lesson—the urgent need for its troops to train, equip and improve their skills in urban warfare. Thirteen months later, and this time, in the province of Samar, it took both the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the military to learn another invaluable lesson—the need for a more “realistic” coordination. While both events happened in different settings with different objectives, both happened under the same course of combat operations. While investigations are still being conducted into the events, including possible lapses, leading to the killings of six rookie policemen in the rather so unfortunate “misencounter” in Samar, officials are already laying the cornerstone that governs coordination between the police and the military in future combat operations.

Philippines steps up upgrading of military facilities AA 28th Jun 2018
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has approved a 300 billion peso ($5.6 billion) budget to modernize the country’s military facilities, the Department of Defense confirmed Wednesday. The confirmation follows its recent admission that the country is currently incapable of defending its territories amid reports of China’s militarization of the South China Sea. The five-year modernization plan, which marks the second phase of the Revised Armed Forces of the Philippines Modernization Program initiated under former President Benigno Aquino III, will be implemented from 2018 to 2022, said defense department spokesperson Arsenio Andolong.

US 'supercarrier' in Philippine waters for routine patrol philstar.com 26th Jun 2018
A nuclear-powered "supercarrier" of the United States Navy arrived in Manila on Tuesday as part of its routine patrol in the Pacific. USS Ronald Reagan, the US Navy's only forward-deployed aircraft carrier, will be in Philippine waters for four days. The American aircraft carrier is the flagship of Carrier Strike Group 5, which includes guided-missile destroyer USS Mustin and guided-missile cruisers USS Antietam and USS Chancellorsville. The carrier and the strike group have been training in the area of operations of the US Navy's 7th Fleet while "supporting security and stability in the Indo-Pacific region." Ronald Reagan has officially been on patrol since May 29, when it sailed out of the Yokosuka Naval Base in Japan. Its deployment last month came days after China called out the US after USS Antietam and USS Higgings sailed within 12 nautical miles of the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea.

US: Alliance with Philippines unmatched philstar.com 24th Jun 2018
Treaties with the Philippines, South Korea, Japan, Thailand, Australia and New Zealand give the United States an unmatched alliance in the Indo-Pacific region, US officials said. At a conference at the Center for a New American Security, a Washington-based think tank, officials reaffirmed the US has deep interests in the region. Alex Wong, deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asia and Pacific Affairs, said there are more forward-deployed US service members in the Indo-Pacific region than anywhere else, and they field the most advanced weapons systems.

Cayetano meets with US counterpart, reaffirms security ties with US BusinessWorld 22nd Jun 2018
Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter S. Cayetano and United States Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo reaffirmed the Philippines-US alliance when they met for the first time on Thursday, June 21, at the US State Department in Washington D.C. In a statement, Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel G. Romualdez said Mr. Pompeo expressed the hope that President Rodrigo R. Duterte and US President Donald J. Trump would meet again as a follow-up to the bilateral talks during the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit last November in Manila.

Cayetano: PHL, China ‘co-control’ Scarborough BusinessWorld 19th Jun 2018
Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter S. Cayetano on Monday said the Philippines and the People’s Republic of China “co-control” the disputed West Philippine Sea, particularly the waters surrounding Scarborough Shoal, adding that Filipinos are now “free” to fish there despite the now widely-reported incident involving China Coast Guard members reportedly taking the catch of Filipino fishermen. “I believe at this point in time, may co-control tayo, because malaya na tayong pumupunta (we now have co-control, because we are now free to go there),” Mr. Cayetano told reporters, as shown in video reports by CNN, ABS-CBN and other media.

Philippine troops clash with remnants of defeated Islamist group U.S. 18th Jun 2018
MANILA (Reuters) - Philippine troops have clashed with remnants of a pro-Islamic State militant group that held a southern city for five months last year, the army said on Monday. Colonel Romeo Brawner, the deputy commander of Joint Task Force Marawi, said security forces conducted air and ground assaults in the province of Lanao del Sur on Sunday in a bid to flush out Maute rebels and the group’s new leader. Brawner said he could not confirm if there had been any casualties in military operations in two towns near Marawi City, which is now undergoing rehabilitation with some residents returning to their homes. The military was targeting Abu Dar, who the government believes is the new “emir” of Islamic State in Southeast Asia, Brawner said. It could not be independently verified if the Islamic State has chosen Dar as its new leader in the region. Islamic State-inspired militants seized parts of the southern city of Marawi in May 2017, raising concerns about the influence of the extremist group in Southeast Asia. The army ended combat operations after wresting control in southern Marawi in October, and has shifted its focus to the island’s marshes where other pro-Islamic State militants operate. The siege of Marawi, the country’s biggest battle since World War Two, displaced some 350,000 residents and more than 1,100 people were killed, mostly militants. Military and security experts have said militants who escaped from Marawi are recruiting fighters using looted cash, gold and jewelry worth tens of millions of dollars.

Duterte: You cannot scare China BusinessWorld 18th Jun 2018
President Rodrigo R. Duterte on Monday, June 18, defended the People’s Republic of China amid criticisms arising from the South China Sea dispute. “China is no pushover. You cannot scare them, and even the US has shown a little bit of apprehension,” Mr. Duterte said in his speech at the 120th founding anniversary celebration of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) in Pasay City on Monday afternoon. He also said anew that the Philippines “will never go to a battle that it cannot win.” “I am not prepared to sacrifice the lives of the Filipino people,” he said.

June 28 peace talks with Reds cancelled philstar.com 15th Jun 2018
The resumption of peace talks between the government and communist rebels originally set for this month has been cancelled. President Duterte ordered the cancellation, according to presidential adviser on the peace process Jesus Dureza, to allow a more thorough engagement with the public on the issue. Dureza did not say when the talks would resume, but in remarks yesterday at the oath-taking of barangay officials in Sta. Rosa, Laguna, Duterte said the talks may have to be deferred until July as he needed “more time.” Dureza said government chief peace negotiator and labor chief Silvestre Bello III had already relayed the decision of the President to his counterpart, National Democratic Front (NDF) chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoli, and to the Norwegian government, which is acting as facilitator for the peace talks. When asked by the Norwegian government facilitator if it meant a stop to the peace talks, Dureza said he gave assurance that it was just a temporary setback.

US military provides new equipment to Philippine marines philstar.com 6th Jun 2018
The US military has provided new equipment worth P178 million to the Philippine marines, which will provide increased protection for their operations. The US turned over 525 sets of ballistic vests, lightweight ballistic plates, tactical ballistic helmets and accessories to the Philippine Marine special operations group (MARSOG) and inshore boat battalion at Fort Bonifacio in Taguig City last May 31, according to the US Embassy. The personal protective equipment were turned over through the Counterterrorism Train and Equip Program. Having been allies for 70 years, the US has been providing grant assistance and expedited sales of arms and munitions to the Armed Forces of the Philippines. This also assists the Philippine military's modernization goals and urgent counterterrorism and humanitarian assistance and relief requirements. The Philippines and the US recently concluded its annual joint military exercises in the country. American troops were among the first to assist Filipino soldiers when ISIS-inspired local terrorists sieged Marawi City last year. — Patricia Lourdes Viray

More than 1,600 Chinese structures in South China Sea Rappler 4th Jun 2018
From basketball courts to buildings with radar equipment, nearly 800 of these Chinese structures can be found in the West Philippine Sea MANILA, Philippines – China has constructed more than 1,600 structures in the disputed South China Sea, and nearly half of these can be found in waters belonging to the Philippines.

Singapore

SAF acquires new fighting machines to do more with less, will reveal replacement for F-16 fighter jets soon Channel NewsAsia 2nd Jul 2018
SINGAPORE: The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) is overhauling its arsenal, adding new warplanes, submarines and warships as it gears up for a future with fewer soldiers. High on the agenda is the replacement for the ageing F-16 fighter jets, with Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen saying on Friday (Jun 29) that a decision will be made in the coming months. “F-16s would face obsolescence beyond 2030,” Dr Ng said of the 30-year-old jets. “To plan for a replacement is not as if you are going to buy a new car, you actually need a lead time of eight to 10 years.”

Singapore takes over command of multi-national counter-piracy task force Hellenic Shipping News 2nd Jul 2018
The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) has taken over the command of a multinational counter-piracy task force – Combined Task Force (CTF) 151 – from the Japanese Maritime Self-Defence Force. A change of command ceremony was held on Thursday (June 28) at the Naval Support Activity, Bahrain. It was witnessed by Vice Admiral Scott A. Stearney, Commander of Combined Maritime Forces, and attended by Rear-Admiral (RADM) Lew Chuen Hong, Singapore’s Chief of Navy.

Govts, private firms need to join hands against new threats posed by rapid technological change: DPM Teo TODAYonline 28th Jun 2018
As technology evolves at a rapid clip, governments and private firms are struggling to resolve new vulnerabilities, including those thrown up by the same systems meant to address defence and security gaps, said Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean who called for greater collaboration across borders and sectors. Speaking at the inaugural Singapore Defence Technology Summit at the Shangri-La Hotel on Thursday (June 28), Mr Teo said defence and security services globally were barely keeping pace with threats posed by rapid technological developments. "It will take some time before more effective countermeasures become available and affordable," said Mr Teo, who is also Coordinating Minister for National Security.

Public and private sector partnerships in defence technology throw up ‘tough questions and moral dilemmas’: Ng Eng Hen TODAYonline 27th Jun 2018
With governments ploughing huge investments in technology and increasingly working with the private sector to develop defence capabilities, there are risks and dilemmas which countries have to grapple with, said Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen on Wednesday (June 27). In the wrong hands, new technologies could be used to undermine nations’ “collective security” for example, said Dr Ng, who was speaking at the opening ceremony of the inaugural Singapore Defence Technology Summit at the Shangri-La Hotel. Already, terrorists and their networks use encrypted apps to orchestrate terrorist plots, or conduct surveillance through drones, which can be also used to deliver improvised explosive devices. The potential of artificial intelligence (AI) and the ethical implications of machines replacing human-decision making are complex issues as well, Dr Ng noted. He also cited the ongoing discussion on data privacy violations by social media.

New $14 million centre will aim to improve maritime safety The Straits Times 20th Jun 2018
A Centre of Excellence in Maritime Safety (CEMS) will open at Singapore Polytechnic (SP) later this year at a cost of $14 million. Announced at the third International Safety@Sea Conference on Wednesday (June 20), it is being launched by the Singapore Maritime Institute and SP, and will collaborate with the industry and research community to develop technological solutions and training systems to help reduce maritime incidents. It will be operational by the fourth quarter and also focus on maritime navigation and operations on-board vessels. The guest of honour at the conference, Senior Minister of State for Transport and Health Lam Pin Min, said CEMS' training programmes will make use of augmented and virtual reality, and focus on new modelling and simulation tools that enhance navigational safety, in tandem with the development of Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships.

SAF evolving to deal with terrorism and cyberthreats The Straits Times 18th Jun 2018
Military has also beefed up joint response with Home Team, says DPM Tharman Terrorism and cyberthreats are pressing security issues which Singapore has to deal with and the changing role of the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) reflects this. Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies Tharman Shanmugaratnam said the SAF has evolved over the years into a fighting force capable of a wide range of operations, including humanitarian aid and disaster relief operations.

Two senior civil servants to step down, including incoming SMRT CEO Neo Kian Hong Channel NewsAsia 4th Jun 2018
SINGAPORE: Two senior civil servants will retire in the coming months, announced the Public Service Division (PSD) on Friday (Jun 1). Mr Neo Kian Hong, Permanent Secretary (Defence Development) at the Ministry of Defence, will retire on Aug 1, after 35 years of service in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) and Administrative Service.

Thailand

New Drones Highlight Thailand-Israel Defense Cooperation The Diplomat 3rd Jul 2018
Over the course of the past week, reports surfaced that Thailand has taken delivery of four new drones from Israel. Though few specifics have been disclosed, the development nonetheless sheds light on the Thai military’s continued attempts to advance the country’s capabilities in this area as well as the deepening defense relationship between the two countries. This week, in another such development, reports surfaced that the Royal Thai Army (RTA) had taken delivery of four Hermes 450 long-endurance tactical unmanned aerial vehicles from Israel’s Elbit Systems. According to IHS Jane’s, the procurement of the Hermes 450 UAVs, which are operated by the 21st Aviation Battalion at the Army Aviation Center at Lopburi, along with an associated ground-control system and remote video terminals, was valued at around $30 million and was finalized in 2017 following demonstrations and trials.

Thailand Introduces Elbit’s Hermes 450 UAS Aviation International News 25th Jun 2018
The Royal Thai Army (RTA) has introduced the Elbit Hermes 450 unmanned aerial system (UAS), becoming the second Southeast Asian country after Singapore to operate this drone. Elbit Systems says that the H450 has now performed “40,000 successful combat missions,” but like other Israeli companies, it does not specify customers. Meanwhile, Thales UK is separately marketing for export the Watchkeeper UAS that it developed from the H450 for the British Army, in cooperation with Elbit. The Elbit sale to Thailand is worth $28 million and consists of four H450 air vehicles and a ground-control station. The UAS will be used for a variety of roles including ISR, target designation, and aerial mapping. The system will be based at the 21st Aviation Battalion, RTA Aviation Centre in Lopburi Province. The Lopburi complex has been flying IAI Searcher Mk II UAVs since 2001.

Thai junta seeks $10 billion in new security budget The Jakarta Post 7th Jun 2018
The Thai junta unveiled a new $10 billion defense and security budget Thursday, in what may be its final opportunity to allocate extra funds to the armed forces before a promised return to elections early next year. Military spending has risen since former army chief Prayut Chan-O-Cha seized power from the civilian government in 2014, fitting a pattern of Thai generals generously boosting budgets following their periodic coups.

Thailand developing closer ties with the US The ASEAN Post 4th Jun 2018
Thailand is the only country in Southeast Asia to have never been colonised. It is perhaps a testament to the strength and resilience of the country in doing away with any foreign interference on its shores. However, Thailand has had interactions with colonial powers before, as can be seen when the United States of America (US) established relations with then Siam in 1818. The Treaty of Amity and Commerce, which formalised diplomatic relations, was also signed by both countries in 1833. In April this year, Thailand’s Defence Minister, Gen. Prawit Wongsuwon met with US Defence Secretary, Gen. Jim Mattis to discuss about security cooperation. This collaboration deals with the strengthening of cyber and marine security that is matched with a concerted effort to combat terrorism and transnational crimes. The visit took place after Gen. Prawit was sent an invitation by the US Department of Defence. The meeting reinforced strong bilateral relations between both countries, marking 200 years of trust and mutual cooperation. The two countries have also fought shoulder-to-shoulder in every major conflict since World War II.

Vocational training for inmates aims to help them re-integrate The Nation 15th Jun 2018
Related Thai agencies have cooperated to create a vocational training project enabling well-behaved inmates to serve as daily workers at factories and earn Bt325 a day.  Two Cabinet ministers yesterday morning visited Greatwall (1988) Co Ltd in Pathum Thani province to show moral support to the 21 inmates working there as welders, rubber-tile layers and door assemblers for a daily wage.

Vietnam

India-Vietnam Defense Relations in the Spotlight with Bilateral Visit   The Diplomat 28th Jun 2018
Last week, as expected, Indian defense minister Nirmala Sitharaman paid a four-day official visit to Vietnam. Although the visit was just one of a series of scheduled defense engagements by the two sides in 2018, it once again put the spotlight on growing security ties between the two Asian states. As I have noted before in these pages, Vietnam and India have been looking to advance their existing defense relationship as part of their wider ties, which were elevated to a comprehensive strategic partnership in 2016. Defense ties have grown in recent years to include not just the traditional components in this realm of ties like exchanges and port calls but also the training of personnel, capacity-building funding and equipment, coast guard collaboration, and pacts on areas such as white shipping and outer space.

What’s Next for EU-Vietnam Defense Ties? The Diplomat 4th Jun 2018
Last week, Vietnam’s deputy defense minister led a high-ranking delegation for a security engagement with the European Union. The trip highlighted ongoing attempts by Hanoi to bolster collaboration with the EU in the defense realm despite the lingering challenges in advancing ties on this front. Though Vietnam has long had ties with select European states, Hanoi and the EU as a bloc have been expanding their ties over the past few years, with the framework for relations set out in the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PAC) that governs overall ties between the two parties that was signed in 2012 and took effect in 2016. But attention has tended to be primarily in the economic aspects of ties, particularly with the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement.

India-Vietnam Defense Ties in the Spotlight With Naval Exercise The Diplomat 4th Jun 2018
On May 21, three Indian naval ships began a five-day visit to the Vietnamese city of Da Nang, which is expected to culminate in a naval exercise between the two sides. Though this is just one of a series of scheduled defense engagements by the two sides expected in 2018, it has nonetheless once again put the spotlight on the growing security ties between the two Asian powers, including in the maritime realm. Vietnam and India have looked to advance their existing defense relationship as part of their wider ties, which were elevated to a comprehensive strategic partnership in 2016. Both sides want to take advantage of opportunities in bilateral ties as well as address a series of shared challenges, including China’s growing maritime assertiveness. Defense ties have grown in recent years to include not just the traditional components in this realm of ties like exchanges and port calls but also the training of personnel, capacity-building funding and equipment, coast guard collaboration, and pacts on areas such as white shipping and outer space.

Việt Nam to participate in US-hosted naval exercise for first time vietnamnews.vn 27th Jun 2018
Việt Nam’s Defence Ministry has confirmed it will be sending eight naval officers to participate in the Rim of the Pacific Exercise (RIMPAC) in Hawaii, the United States, from July 1 – 31, at the invitation of the Commander of the US Navy’s Pacific Fleet. It will be the first time Việt Nam has taken part in the RIMPAC after the country sent observers to the event in 2012 and 2016.

UN selects Việt Nam as training site for peacekeeping forces vietnamnews.vn 26th Jun 2018
Việt Nam is among four countries in Southeast Asia selected to become training sites for UN peacekeeping forces, with the first training course to be held in Việt Nam at the end of this year. The decision was announced by the UN Department of Field Support (DFS) on June 25 following inspections of training facilities in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Bình Thuận: criminal proceedings launched against riot instigators vietnamnews.vn 15th Jun 2018
The Investigation Police Agency of Bình Thuận Province’s Police on Friday decided to start criminal proceedings against people involved in disturbances in Phan Rí Cửa Town in Tuy Phong District and Phan Thiết city on June 10-11. The people were accused of “causing public disorder, destroying property and resisting on-duty officials.”

NA examines draft revision of Law on People’s Public Security Force vietnamnews.vn 15th Jun 2018
National Assembly (NA) deputies on June 14 approved the restructuring of the public security apparatus while discussing the draft revision of the Law on the People’s Public Security Force. Deputy Tô Văn Tám from the Central Highland province of Kon Tum said that with the draft revision, the Public Security Ministry will be adding commune police into the people’s public security force. Thus, it was not necessary to develop another law for the commune police.

President voices support for stronger Việt Nam-India defence ties vietnamnews.vn 14th Jun 2018
The Party and State of Việt Nam will create optimal conditions for the Vietnamese and Indian defence ministries to co-operate closely, deepening the comprehensive strategic partnership between the two countries, said President Trần Đại Quang. At a reception in Hà Nội on Wednesday for Indian Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, President Quang urged leaders of the two ministries to instruct agencies to implement defence co-operation contents, including delegation exchange and collaboration in personnel training, defence industry, information-technology, strategic research and UN peacekeeping.

New law to scale down military-owned businesses vietnamnews.vn 11th Jun 2018
The National Assembly passed an amended Law on National Defense on Friday morning. A highlight in the amended law is to level the playing field between civilian businesses and those that were set up by the army, many of which came under fire during recent years. “There have been calls by lawmakers to draw a clear line between national defence and economic objectives for those businesses,” said head of the NA’s National Defence and Security Commission Võ Trọng Việt. The Ministry of Defence is working on a process to restructure such businesses with a goal to reduce their number from 88 to 17.

U.S. urges delay in vote on Vietnam's cybersecurity bill U.S. 8th Jun 2018
The United States has urged Vietnam to delay a vote on a proposed cybersecurity law, the U.S. Embassy said on Friday, amid widespread concern the law would cause economic harm and stifle online dissent in the communist-ruled country. Vietnamese lawmakers are set to vote on the proposed cybersecurity legislation this month. It aims to impose new legal requirements on internet companies and intensifies policing of online dissent. If passed, the law would require social media companies in Vietnam to remove offending content from their platforms within one day of receiving a request from the Ministry of Information and Communications, and Vietnam’s Ministry of Security, the government body tasked with dealing with dissent.