By Joyce Ann L. Rocamora

ALLIES. Two military personnel from the US and the Philippines in a photo taken during the closing ceremony of the PH-US Exercise Balikatan 38 in 2023. The United States Senate is waiting for a detailed analysis on the proposal to increase the annual USD40 million US military aid or Foreign Military Financing to the Philippines to at least USD500 million. (PNA photo by Robert Oswald P. Alfiler)

MANILA – The United States Senate is waiting for a detailed analysis from the US Department of Defense (DOD) on the proposal to increase the annual USD40 million US military aid or Foreign Military Financing (FMF) to the Philippines to at least USD500 million.

Republican Senator William Francis Hagerty of Tennessee and Democrat Senator Tim Caine of Virginia proposed the Philippines Enhanced Resilience Act of 2024 (PERA) last April 10, which seeks to authorize a total of USD2.5 billion in FMF grant assistance to the Philippines for a span of five years, from 2025 to 2029.

In an interview at Fairmont Makati on Friday, US Senator Christopher Coons said he did not sign the bill as a co-sponsor due to “some debate about the absorption capacity of the Philippine military” for them to deploy USD2.5 billion in defense financing.

Coons is a member of the US Senate Foreign Relations and Appropriations Committees.

“I’m waiting to get the analysis of the US Department of Defense on whether we can allocate USD500 million a year. This would lock us into doing that for five years, I’d like to see us do it once and have it be successful,” he told the Philippine News Agency.

“To go from USD40 million to USD500 million in one year would be a significant move. My argument would be, let’s show that we can do that first,” he said.

Coons sees the bill as an important bipartisan indicator that there is support for the “deepening and strengthening” of the US-Philippines military partnership.

“I take it as a good sign, but I’d like to see us prove that we can actually do it. I am waiting to hear the analysis from the US Department of Defense about what the systems are, what’s needed, on what timeline, and what can actually be absorbed,” he said.

Through the FMF, the measure aims to support the Armed Forces of the Philippines modernization program and allow the Philippines to safeguard its territorial sovereignty; improve maritime domain awareness; counter coercive military activities; and strengthen cooperation on counterterrorism, among others.

As of January 2024, the Philippines is the largest recipient of US grant assistance for defense capabilities in the Pacific region, according to the US Department of Commerce-International Trade Administration. (PNA)