By Roy Mabasa
The Trump administration’s arms sale strategy to the Philippines and its allies in the region is not just about the product itself but more of the broader aspect of a “long-term” defense partnership.
This was stressed by US State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs Undersecretary Andrea Thomson during a telephonic interview with journalists on Monday.
“So the sales reflect it, but it’s much broader than that. It’s not only a product but more importantly, a partnership. So when you have that relationship with the United States and are looking to buy that military equipment, it’s an indicator of a long term defense cooperation,” Thomson said.
Thomson explained that the new strategy rolled out by US President Donald Trump in 2018, called the Conventional Arms Transfer (CAT) policy, added efficiencies and transparency in both their foreign military sales and direct commercial sales processes.
The US official met with their counterparts in the Southeast Asian region at the sidelines of the just concluded Shangri-la Dialogue in Singapore.
“We’re getting very positive feedback from our partners and allies that it’s ensuring that it gets them the right equipment at the right time for the right mission,” she said.
In the case of the Philippines, the US official noted the incredible importance of equipment related to maritime security and its fight against terrorism.
The Philippines, alongside Taiwan, Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei, and China are locked in territorial claims in the South China Sea.
Thomson said the US government was looking forward to the “next steps” that the Philippines will take in terms of its procurement of American military equipment.
“So whether it’s the importance of maritime security, which obviously is so incredibly important to the Philippines, as well as equipment in the counterterrorism fight. So added transparency, added a feedback mechanism,” she added.
On Friday, acting US Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan announced that it will sell 34 surveillance drones to four of its allies in the region – the Philippines, South Korea, Indonesia, and Vietnam – to enable them to strengthen their respective intelligence gathering against “actors” destabilizing the region.