Philippines’ submarine purchase still under consideration – armed forces’ spokesperson

MANILA (Reuters) – The Philippines is still considering whether to acquire its first-ever submarine, the country’s armed forces’ spokesperson said on Thursday, a move that would boost its naval capabilities as it shifts its focus towards external defence.

“We’re considering acquiring a submarine, but these discussions are subject to careful evaluation,” Colonel Francel Margareth Padilla, spokesperson for the Philippines’ Armed Forces said, without providing details.

Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr said in May his country has received submarine offers from different countries without naming them, but he acknowledged that operating a submarine is a very large commitment, and he would like to focus on developing anti-submarine capabilities.

Southeast Asian neighbours like Indonesia and Vietnam already have submarine programmes.

The Philippines has a 15-year plan that began in 2013 to modernise its military’s outdated hardware that includes warships from World War Two and helicopters used by the United States in the Vietnam War.

It is in the last stages of completing the second phase of the programme that required 300 billion pesos ($5.37 billion) in funding, while the third phase, aimed at enhancing the Philippines’ external defence capabilities, is awaiting the president’s approval.

“We don’t have an amount yet. But, of course, we’re trying to have our wish lists of sorts,” Padilla said.

Padilla said the Philippine president has given clear instructions to the military to end the decades old problem of communist insurgency in the country so “we could focus our efforts to strengthening our security posture.”

“We have to proactively address the growing challenges to our country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Padilla said against the backdrop of what the Philippines has described as “aggressive” Chinese actions in the South China Sea.

($1 = 55.8300 Philippine pesos)

(Reporting by Karen Lema; Editing by Susan Fenton)