Philippines to Buy Two New South Korean Warships for $556 Million

The latest in the military's modernization program.
FILE PHOTO: Republic of Korea navy warships and aircraft are shown on the Yeosu sea, During the Yeosu Expo on June 16, 2012
Photo/s: shutterstock

The Philippines has ordered two new warships from South Korea's Hyundai Heavy Industries, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Tuesday, modernizing Manila's navy as it faces a dispute with Beijing in the South China Sea.

The Philippine Navy had become run down in recent decades -- even featuring U.S. craft from World War II -- until President Rodrigo Duterte's predecessor, Benigno Aquino, began a modest modernization program in 2010.

Tuesday's  $556 million (P28 billion pesos) deal with the South Korean shipbuilding giant comes five years after the firm also won a contract to build two new frigates for the Philippine Navy.

Corvettes and frigates are small, fast warships mainly used to protect other vessels from attack.

"This project will give the Philippine Navy two modern corvettes that are capable of anti-ship, anti-submarine and anti-air warfare missions," Lorenzana said in a speech at the signing ceremony in Manila.

The deal "will ensure commonality and interoperability with our existing assets," he added, as well as "ease of maintenance and repairs".

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Manila has since acquired two former U.S. Coast Guard cutters and three landing craft from Australia, as well as coast guard patrol vessels from Japan, in an effort to bolster its presence in the South China Sea, where it faces a dispute with Beijing.

China claims almost all of the waterway, through which trillions of dollars in trade passes annually, with competing claims from Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.

Beijing has ignored a 2016 ruling by The Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration that its historical claim is without basis.

EXPLAINERS:

China's Poop-Dumping in the West Philippine Sea, Explained

Why It's Called West Philippine Sea, Not South China Sea

Think Galunggong, the West Philippine Sea is a Gut Issue

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