The Philippines has decided to purchase an anti-ship missile system from India, according to the country’s defense minister, bolstering its security in the face of rising Chinese aggression in the South China Sea.

When President Rodrigo Duterte’s predecessor, Benigno Aquino, began a modest modernization effort in 2012, Manila’s military was among the worst-equipped in Asia — but it is still no match for its powerhouse neighbor China.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana provided few specifics on the almost $375 million deal won to BrahMos Aerospace to supply the Philippine Navy with an onshore anti-ship missile system.

The Indian military ministry claims that BrahMos, a joint venture between India and Russia, has produced the world’s fastest cruise missile.

The Philippines would be the first to make a bid for it. India’s military ministry did not respond to a request for comment.
Lorenzana announced the contract on Facebook, where he shared a copy of the “Notice of Award,” which includes three batteries, training for operators and maintainers, and logistics assistance.

Under the “Second Horizon” modernization program, Duterte has been aiming to acquire missile systems for the Philippine military.
“It’s part of our territorial defense,” Col. Ramon Zagala, a spokesman for the Philippine Armed Forces, said.

Because “you can hit the target from a long distance,” he told AFP, the technology would operate as a deterrent to potential aggressors.
The system would most likely be stationed on the western side of the main island of Luzon or on Palawan island, according to military analyst and historian Jose Antonio Custodio, although he ruled out the Spratly islands owing to “lack of camouflage.”

Last year, tensions in the South China Sea reached new heights, with Manila and Beijing accusing each other of violating territorial claims.
With conflicting claims from Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam, China claims practically all of the waterway, through which trillions of dollars in trade travel annually.

Beijing has disregarded a 2016 judgement by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague that its historical claim is unfounded.

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