Washington DC – The US State Department has reportedly cleared the sale of state-of-the-art F-16 jet fighters to the Philippines, an arms deal worth around $2.5 billion.
The Pentagon also notified the US Congress of the possible sale of two missile packages of Sidewinder and Harpoon missiles worth an additional $160 million.
The Philippines is a US treaty ally and as such is dependent on Washington for vital military hardware to shore up its defense capabilities.
“The package is a serious step that will certainly get Beijing’s attention,” according to Eric Sayers of the American Enterprise Institute.
Sayers said the clearance of the arms sale is a “proactive effort” by Washington to ensure the US remains the security partner of choice for Manila.
The Philippines is currently embroiled in a tug-of-war with China for primacy in the West Philippine Sea.
And due to its enormous military resources, Beijing is imposing its dominance in the resources-rich region virtually at will, to the detriment of the Philippines’ economic interests.
In 2016, the International Court of Arbitration in The Hague definitively ruled in favor of the Philippines as to its maritime claims in the West Philippine Sea.
But this was totally rejected by China which came out with its own “9 dash line map” claiming 90 some percent of the regions, to the extent of intruding in the PH’s exclusive economic zone and in blatant violation of international law and the United Nations Law of the Sea Conference (UNCLOS).
The F-16 sale is considered prodigious as both Manila and Washington are seeking to dampen Beijing’s unlawful “sea-grabbing” activities in the WPS.