Philippines Budgets for a Permanent Base at Second Thomas Shoal

Sierra Madre
Philippine forces at the deteriorating WWII landing ship BRP Sierra Madre, aground on Second Thomas Shoal since 1999 (AFP)

Published Dec 17, 2023 8:41 PM by The Maritime Executive


As China escalates aggression at Second Thomas Shoal in the South China Sea, the Philippines Congress has reportedly allocated funding for construction of a permanent structure at the site. Currently, the Philippines Navy occupies the shoal with a garrison aboard a wrecked landing ship, the BRP Sierra Madre.

“There is funding under the 2024 national budget so our ships find somewhere to go,” said Senator Sonny Angara, the chairman of the finance committee, in an interview with CNN Philippines last week. However, Angara did not reveal the specific amount allocated for the proposed construction project.

Back in August, Senator Chiz Escudero had proposed allocation of $1.8 million towards the project. According to the Senator, the funds would be enough to construct a pier and lodging structures for soldiers assigned in the area, as well as for fishermen who might seek temporary refuge in times of bad weather.

The Philippines Senate last week ratified the country’s 2024 national budget of $103 billion, which includes additional expenditure for the Department of National Defense (DND) of $187 million.

The Philippines Navy has been awarded the lion’s share of the additional defense budget, some $110 million. The Coast Guard will get $50 million, the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA) gets $17 million, and $8 million more will be available for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

“As we have learned from the constant bullying and aggression of China against Filipino fishermen and our protectors in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) and our exclusive economic zone, we badly need to upgrade our capabilities in patrolling our seas. The funds will be used for the purchase of additional patrol ships and other defense equipment,” said Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri.