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Editorial

Out of the doldrums



At the rites marking the 115th anniversary of the Philippine Navy, President Aquino announced a P75-billion upgrade for the service. It is a necessary investment, but hardly sufficient. In terms both absolute (number of ships in service) and relative (in proportion to the size of the archipelago), the Navy is the weakest in the region. But at least the country’s naval force seems to have finally sailed out of the doldrums of fiscal and strategic neglect.

The plan calls for acquiring five ships by 2017: two new frigates and three fast patrol boats. In addition, the upgrade calls for two antisubmarine helicopters and eight amphibious assault vehicles. The P75-billion budget is on top of the P28 billion already spent on the Navy in the last two years, much of it to acquire and refurbish two US Coast Guard cutters (the first is already in service).

Not exactly a blue-water navy, but then our objectives are limited to defending Philippine territory. Is the upgrade enough, to deter regional piracy or Taiwanese obstreperousness or Chinese aggression in the West Philippine Sea? That remains to be seen, but there is no debate about the need to quickly make the Navy shipshape. The P100-billion-plus outlay over the next few years may seem big, especially when compared to the budget allotted for the controversial conditional cash transfer program, but it is part of the price we have to pay for defending our sovereignty.

When President Aquino spoke at the Navy rites of having “the capability to resist bullies entering our backyard,” many Filipinos must have thought he was referring to either the Taiwanese or the Chinese. Taipei may be in the news now, but in fact it is Beijing that is the long-term problem. Precisely because the problem is for the long haul, the military build-up must be seen as only part of the solution. Much still depends on the continuing work on both the diplomatic and legal fronts. But an improved military posture can only be an advantage in diplomacy, and demonstrates a commitment to defend what is legally ours.

In other words, we understand the expensive Navy upgrade as a necessary component of a larger defensive strategy: We can demand better terms if we negotiate or argue from a position of relative strength.

To be sure, there is no comparison with China’s own military build-up, the annual budget of which is about a hundred times more than the cost of our naval upgrade. But it is the unprecedented aggressiveness of the Chinese government itself, in claiming almost all of the South China Sea and in occupying island groups under Philippine control or within the Philippine exclusive economic zone, which has raised tensions in the region.

(It must also be pointed out that the Armed Forces’ renewed emphasis on external defense was made possible in part by the progress made in the peace negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, and the continuing decline in the number of New People’s Army regulars. There is a slow pivot away from the AFP’s counterinsurgency orientation.)

We must note, however, that this is not the first time that AFP modernization has received generous fiscal support. Unfortunately, much of the money was frittered away, with the corruption scandals involving generous retirement packages for generals and free-spending comptrollers the only visible trace of some of that cash. Will the billions of pesos spent on the upgrade of the Navy, the acquisition of new planes for the Air Force, the purchase of new weapons for the Army, come down a few years from now to familiar tales of corruption?

Considering the threats looming on the horizon, the usual “pabaon” for retiring generals should be considered an act of treason.


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Short URL: http://opinion.inquirer.net/?p=53209

  • vaporub123

    2017? baka sa panahon na yan halos lahat ng isla nakapaligid sa pilipinas ay nasakupan na ng tsina o ibang bansa.wala naman pagkakaiba kung oorderin ang mga barko agaran ng ngayon taon o sa susunod na taon ay makukuha na natin.bakit antayin pa ang 2017?????????

  • Mamang Pulis

    the usual “pabaon” for retiring generals should be considered an act of treason.

    mabuti pa yun isang heneral tinablan ng hiya, samantala yun mga inaakusahan na sa korte—sige pa rin…mahiya naman kayo nampota talaga oo, dapat sa inyo binabaril sa luneta.

    • Fulpol

      yung tiga-Maynila, nag-suicide.. yung mga Ilocano, kapalan na lang…

  • FILIPINOpatriot4ever

    Good governance and the incorruptibility of President Aquino makes a big difference.

    Compare this to the 9 years of the corrupt arroyo regime who did not do anything about the AFP modernization except giving it lip service and selling AFP prime real estate.

    • Fulpol

      selling AFP prime real estate?? who sold Fort Bonifacio? i think, it’s not Gloria..

  • doctor_mengele

    There are dark clouds in the horizon and there is a storm
    brewing.

    I fear, hopefully, wrongly, that our sovereignty and the lives
    of our soldiers will be in jeopardy before this year, or two, ends.

    Assuming the new ships are paid tomorrow, being brand new, they
    will take at least two to four years to deliver. To be of any credible
    deterrent, they have to be armed with SAM’s, CIWS’s, Anti Ship Missiles, and
    Anti Submarine Weapons Countermeasures, both passive and active. Training men
    and women for this technology will take at least three to four years. Improper
    training could mean errors in operating the system, or even worst, start a war
    due a mistake. Not easy to have your trigger finger on the button. It takes more discipline than you think.

    If tomorrow, the US would give us, one or two full squadrons of F/A-18 Hornets,
    24- 48 aircraft, it would take at least 2 years to train the pilots, weapons
    officers, ground crews and maintenance personnel to learn everything about the
    aircraft.

    This would cost hundreds of millions in fuel, flying hours,
    man-hours in operational cost.

    To efficiently monitor our coastlines from submarines and
    poachers, we would need land-based radar, over the horizon radar, over a dozen
    coastal patrol planes, air defense radars to guide our Jet fighters and
    adequate patrol ships. What is the use of detection if there is no
    interdiction? This means thousands of man-hours of training and refreshers, establishing protocol for various scenarios. Note that we have the 5th longest coastline in the world.

    Lastly, you will need to set up a Command and Information. You
    will need a central body to process all the information so that the people in
    charge can make the proper decision. Setting up such a structure, takes years of
    training and is constantly perfected through time.

    I would love to have our men and women in the armed forces doings these tasks, defending our homeland. Nothing would make them more proud than defending their homeland from foreign aggressors. I would want the to be paid well and to be proud of what they do. This beats moonlighting as a bodyguard for some corrupt politician, trigger-happy gambling lord or sidelining as an FX operator, just to make ends meet.

    But as of today, we are not able to defend our selves. We are brave and we have courage. But our weapons will not be able to defend our homeland but our blood will show our valor. As Patton said, “No one ever won a war by dying for his country, you let the other dumb b—tard die for his country”.

    If absolute control of the South China Sea is what China seeks, i am afraid to say that now is the best time to attack our installations in the Spratleys and the Scarborough Shoal. We have the law on our side, but unfortunately, no means of dispensing Justice as far as the United Nation Law of the Sea is concerned. If China takes those islands now, the cost to them would be minimal. The whole world will condemn them, but what can the world do? Amongst all the claimants, the Philippines is the weakest, militarily speaking. China will not dare cross Taiwan and Vietnam.

    The only way for all this to stop is for the US to side with us. The worst thing the Pentagon fear today, is for the South China Sea to be controlled by China. Any carrier battle group will have to deal with threats from Hainan Island on one side and Chinese forces from the Spratleys on the other. This is like shooting fish in a barrel.
    Japan would also have much to fear. There is no love lost between China and Japan, the last thing Japan would want is a China having a choke hold on the alley way with brings much of the raw materials and oil to the resource scare Land of the Rising Sun.

    But the US has to consider the economic repercussions of making such a stand against Chinese aggression. If the Chinese make their move now, the US’s military “pivot” to Asia would be moot and useless. Even if we gave them back Subic Bay and Clark (which is next to impossible), the presence of the Chinese in those contested islands they are trying to wrestle away from us, will be like a gun pointed at any prepositioned military forces based in the Philippines.
    We are splintered politically. Maybe, this problem would make our people one. We have the money to spend to defend our selves and stop being bullied, as long as we stop the corruption, pay our taxes and begin to love our country and stop stealing from it. We will have to stand together for be able to weather this challenge. We have to honor or soldiers and people in government trying to get us through these trying times. We have to jail those who have stolen from the people, murdered our people and persecuted our people so that this will not happen again.

    Pray for our Soldiers. They have the most difficult duty as their blood is first to be spilled. Say prayers for them before your meals and before you go to sleep.

    There are dark clouds in the horizon and there is a storm brewing.

    • kangsongdaeguk

      Nakaka-encourage yung post mo. This and other comments I have read in most sections of Inquirer articles recently, plus reading a comprehensive history book about our country – now I’m training to strengthen myself for the ultimate decision of whether to enter PMA next year – could be my last chance because of my age now.

  • Guest

    Part 2

    I would love to have our men and women in the armed forces
    doings these tasks, defending our homeland. I would want the to be paid well
    and to be proud of what they do. This beats moonlighting as a bodyguard for
    some corrupt politician, trigger-happy gambling lord or sidelining as an FX
    operator, just to make ends meet.

    But as of today, we are not able to defend our selves. We are
    brave and we have courage. But our weapons will not be able to defend our homeland
    but our blood will show our valor. As Patton said, “No one ever won a war
    by dying for his country, you let the other dumb b—tard die for his
    country”.

    If absolute control of the South China Sea is what China seeks,
    i am afraid to say that now is the best time to attack our installations in the
    Spratleys and the Scarborough Shoal. We have the law on our side, but
    unfortunately, no means of dispensing Justice as far as the United Nation Law
    of the Sea is concerned. If China takes those islands now, the cost to them
    would be minimal. The whole world will condemn them, but what can the world do?
    Amongst all the claimants, the Philippines is the weakest, militarily speaking.
    China will not dare cross Taiwan and Vietnam.

    The only way for all this to stop is for the US to side with us.
    The worst thing the Pentagon fear today, is for the South China Sea to be
    controlled by China. Any carrier battle group will have to deal with threats
    from Hainan Island on one side and Chinese forces from the Spratleys on the
    other. This is like shooting fish in a barrel.

    Japan would also have much to fear. There is no love lost
    between China and Japan, the last thing Japan would want is a China having a
    choke hold on the alley way with brings much of the raw materials and oil to
    the resource scare Land of the Rising Sun.

  • http://www.facebook.com/babu.taza Babu Taza

    Kalayaan island groups is Philippine territory under international law. Losing it to Communist China is hard to imagine, but our Badjaos should have been there long time ago. Only Marcos did the right thing. Now, the Communist thugs are putting up military cantonments to fortify their positions. Sadly, given the aggressive and brutal offensives of PROC-supported Maoist NPA, one cannot even be sure that one day PROC’s lockeys might win the insurgency and make the Philippines a communist state, a reality that most billionaire Tsinoys, who had heavily invested in PROC, do not bother at all. Are they fifth column and joyous over China’s bullying?

    With over 3 million member People’s Liberation Army, PROC can easily swallow the Philippines. This is a wake up call for pro-US DFA Secretary del Rosario that time is up and go as our pro-US stance is meaningless, Try a new tack, may be it works better.

  • Fulpol

    if you got thousands, small but fast and sleek marine ships.. that is better.. same with thousands of drones, fast and easy to maneuver than hundreds of fighter jets..

    especially philippines is archipelagic..

  • Fulpol

    Considering the threats looming on the horizon, the usual “pabaon” for retiring generals should be considered an act of treason.

    ——————

    okey lang siguro may “pabaon”, if they did something great to the country.. gaya ng mga CEO’s when they retire, received hefty bonuses kung nagawa nilang iakyat ang presyo ng company stock including na rin yung revenue at profit..

    pero halos ambush ang nangyayari sa mga sundalo.. halos walang maisuot na maayos na sapatos ang mga sundalo.. halos mga armas pumapalya..

    they don’t deserve “pabaon”..

    • pj2003

      this time parekoy we are on the same line… minsan magkatugma rin pala tayo ng iniisip.

    • Dibs

      agree!

  • Abbey Nuyles

    Buy patrol craft from Iran they have perfected the art of swarm attack.

  • tarikan

    Consider this: Gen. Carlos Garcia was sentenced by the AFP general court martial for 2 years imprisonment for stealing more than P350M from its coffers. Now, is it a detriment or a come on? If I were an unscrupulous general I would do the same. I’d even bargain to have my jail sentence doubled but I don’t have to return a sizable portion of my loot. Nakuha ko na yun eh bakit pa ibabalik. Doblehin na laang ang sentencia, mahirap yata magnakaw maraming mga binibigyang asungot.



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