House bill funds new tranche of Philippines, Taiwan military aid

House bill funds new tranche of Philippines, Taiwan military aid

House Appropriations Committee Republicans released their fiscal year 2025 State Department spending bill this week, which will be considered by the full committee next Wednesday, with sections demonstrating the continued U.S. interest in countering China’s growing threat in the Indo-Pacific region.

A subcommittee approved the measure during its markup Tuesday after some Democrat members voiced concerns that proposed funding cuts for international financial institutions including the UN Development Program harm U.S. national security. While the Democrats argue the bill underfunds the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development, there is bipartisan support for an increase in overseas military aid to both the Philippines and Taiwan.

The bill, which is $12 billion below the Biden administration’s State Department budget request for FY25, would reduce overall funding by 6%. At the same time, it allocates $100 million in Foreign Military Financing for the Philippines and another $500 million in Taiwan FMF. That’s well above the State Department’s FY25 budget request, which asked for $42.2 billion in FMF for the Philippines and $100 million for Taiwan.

The FMF program grants U.S. allies and partners cash assistance to buy defense equipment, training and services to ensure they can work toward common security goals together — in this case, the threat of China in the region.

“The legislation makes clear that we will not retreat from the cause of freedom,” House Appropriations Chairman Tom Cole, R-Okla., said during the bill’s markup Tuesday. “It confronts the growing creep of hostile regimes by countering Communist China’s influence in the Indo-Pacific region and intimidation of Taiwan and our other partners in the area.”

Both the Philippines and Taiwan need to defend their territory from China, and the U.S. is there to help.

In the South China Sea’s Scarborough Shoal, China’s Coast Guard attacked Philippine fishing vessels in late April. But this is not the only instance of Chinese aggression in the area.

More recently, China put the pressure on Taiwan, the country that China considers a province, when they commenced a military drill around the island after the inauguration of President Lai Ching-te.

“My view is that we should principally focus on Taiwan and the Philippines right now,” Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., told Defense News in an interview at the Shangri-la dialogue in Singapore last week. “But look, even $20 [million] or $40 million in [foreign military financing] for some of our partners out here would be significant.”

As chair of the Senate’s State Department’s spending panel — the State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs subcommittee — Coons oversees FMF. Unlike the House, the Senate panel has not released its FY25 bill yet.

China’s aggressive activity in the area is causing the U.S. to pay more attention and give FMF to those countries in need, like the Philippines and Taiwan, to counter their growing competitor.

To deter China, the U.S. has relied on partnerships with allies in the Indo-Pacific.

“There are a whole series of conversations underway between the United States and Taiwan, the United States and the Philippines, and a half dozen other regional actors,” Coons said. “Those conversations should then inform the final downselect in terms of how much for each and for what purpose.”

The U.S. and Philippines have ramped up their joint military exercises, called Balikatan, because of the acknowledgment that the Philippines’ territorial defense needs improvement.

Balikatan, the Tagalog word meaning “shoulder to shoulder,” has expanded over the years under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement. The U.S. and the Philippines used this 2014 agreement to boost their alliance.

The agreement allows the U.S. to deploy troops and fund Philippine military bases’ improvement and construction. As of 2023, there are 10 sites under this agreement.

Other legislation the U.S. has approved to counter the influence of China in the Indo-Pacific includes the foreign aid bill that Congress passed in April.

That bill included $2 billion in FMF for Taiwan and other allies that are “confronting Chinese aggression,” as well as $1.9 billion to transfer weapons to Taiwan from U.S. stockpiles.

Cristina Stassis is an editorial fellow for Defense News and Military Times, where she covers stories surrounding the defense industry, national security, military/veteran affairs and more. She is currently studying journalism and mass communication and international affairs at the George Washington University.

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