US authorities are working on enhancing the Philippines’ territorial defense, and this may involve sharing war materiel and improving military bases, the US Marine Corps Pacific commander said on Thursday.
“We have a plan [on military installations]and the EDCA [Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement] has been approved. We’re still trying to figure out exactly what we wanted to do to improve some of these former bases and places to better support the territorial defense objectives of the Philippines,” Lt. Gen. John Toolan told reporters at the sidelines of the live fire exercise and the firing of M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) at Crow Valley in Tarlac province, north of Manila.
Toolan said that as an ally, the US is more than happy to share with the Philippines war materiel such as the HIMARS and the V-22 Osprey if the need arises.
The HIMARS is a light multiple rocket launcher mounted on a standard Army Medium Tactical Vehicle (MTV) truck frame.
It was the star in a simulated assault exercise by 5,500 US and Philippine soldiers, unleashing six missiles at distant targets from a dry riverbed three hours’ drive from Manila.
“We’re allies and as allies we need to work together and I think that we’ll be more happy to share,” Toolan said.
When asked if the US will deploy HIMARS to military bases where US troops have gained access, he replied, “That’s not necessarily in the plan but obviously [with]the mobility of the HIMARS, you could use it anywhere.”
The system’s range is 3,000 kilometers, Toolan said, meaning it could hit vessels far from the Philippine land mass.
The truck-mounted missile system had been flown aboard a giant military transport plane to an airport near the Crow Valley firing range earlier in the day from the western Philippine island of Palawan.
Vice Admiral Alexander Lopez, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Western Command (Westcom) chief, said the HIMARS can be deployed to any part of the Philippines, including disputed waterways.
“We can use that capability should we have one,” Lopez added. “We have seen the capability, highly mobile, lethal so I think that’s one of the capabilities that we want to have.”
He said this year’s military drill is the biggest so far in terms of scope and the kind of equipment used.
“We are really progressing and hopefully by next year we can come up with a better and maybe much bigger exercise. Hopefully we can get in more technologies, newer technologies and hardware,” Lopez added.
Toolan said the two-week maneuvers displayed the capability of both armies to deploy rapidly across the Asian archipelago.
The Philippines has been improving its defense ties with the United States to help upgrade its capability to defend its territory.
It has allowed American forces to rotate through five Philippine bases including one in Palawan and another in the north, both close to the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea).