Defenders and heroes | Inquirer Opinion

Defenders and heroes

/ 04:40 AM August 28, 2023

There are no monuments erected in their honor and they don’t belong to the pantheon of personalities who have etched their permanent place in our history books, but they are heroes just the same for their acts of courage and display of bravery against those who seek to cause harm to the Philippines and its interests. It is these nameless and faceless Filipino heroes whom the country seeks to celebrate today, National Heroes Day.

The law that enacted the holiday specifies no hero. This lack of specifics, the Official Gazette emphasized, thus “offers an opportunity to celebrate the bravery of not one, not a few, but all Filipino heroes who have braved death or persecution for home, nation, justice, and freedom.”

None befit the title of modern everyday heroes more than the members of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) who bravely go about their duties to valiantly defend Philippine territory in the face of Chinese military aggression in the West Philippine Sea that China continues to claim as its own.


Last Aug. 22, PCG personnel carried out a successful rotation and resupply mission for the BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal despite harassment from the China Coast Guard (CCG) and Chinese maritime militia. This was not the first time that PCG personnel and vessels performing missions in Philippine territory have had to confront Chinese “cruelty at sea,” and most likely not the last. The PCG, according to Sen. Risa Hontiveros in a privilege speech last week, has been regularly subjected to harassment and intimidation by the Chinese insisting on their already debunked rights over the West Philippine Sea.


Last Aug. 5, two PCG vessels escorting boats chartered by the Armed Forces of the Philippines to resupply the BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal were harassed by CCG vessels and maritime militia vessels that used water cannons and engaged in dangerous maneuvers to break up the mission. A similar incident was recorded in November 2021. Last year, the CCG also removed the cover of a 70-mm naval gun aboard their ship and pointed it toward a PCG vessel traveling to Ayungin Shoal. Then last February, China deployed a military-grade laser toward a PCG ship, temporarily blinding the Filipino crew on board who were just performing their sworn duties to protect Philippine territory.

It is these dedicated members of PCG who deserve to be hailed and provided greater support, thus Hontiveros’ call on her colleagues in the Senate to further strengthen the PCG and grant it the funding it needs for intelligence operations and maritime patrols. This will enable them to better fulfill their mandate and responsibility for maritime safety, maritime environmental protection, and maritime security.

Hontiveros emphasized that despite the PCG’s “colossal” obligation to maintain maritime security across the width and breadth of the country’s maritime zones, it has only been receiving a “measly” P10 million for its intelligence fund since 2009. The scraps it is receiving are a far cry from the millions that other government agencies have been allotted, even if they are not remotely involved in preserving national security and the protection of Philippine territory. The PCG had to heavily rely on “human intelligence” to get the information it needed when it could do better with more advanced technology that is readily available if only it had the funds.

Aside from giving the PCG what it deserves by way of funding, ordinary Filipinos can also salute the bravery of its men and women by standing by them as they face harassment not just in the open seas but in social media, where they are targeted every time they expose these dangerous incidents and encounters with the Chinese. It is bad enough, Hontiveros said, that pro-China propagandists are spinning these tales but what’s worse is that these patently false narratives are being echoed by some Filipinos, prompting PCG spokesperson Commodore Jay Tarriela to condemn them as “unpatriotic, and a traitor to the Philippines and to our people.” Tarriela’s strong view is shared by the majority of the Filipinos who have consistently said in surveys over the past few years that they want greater action from the government in the face of “intrusions” into the West Philippine Sea and are wary of China’s real intentions when dealing with the Philippines.

Filipinos can celebrate National Heroes Day more meaningfully this year by translating these sentiments into action by supporting Hontiveros’ call for more funds for the PCG, by not falling prey to disinformation and fake news against the PCG, and by shunning the traitors among us.

It is the least that we can do for our heroes at the PCG, the country’s “first line of defense” in our maritime territory, including strategic vital areas such as the West Philippine Sea, Benham Rise, the Sulu Sea, and the Luzon Strait, as well as the rest of the country’s exclusive economic zone and continental shelf. Because of them, we are able to go about our daily lives and sleep soundly at night.

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