AFP acquires HIMARS, world’s fastest missiles for WPS | Inquirer Opinion
Sharp Edges

AFP acquires HIMARS, world’s fastest missiles for WPS

/ 05:16 AM January 02, 2024

While internal problems such as El Niño’s effect on drought, scarce water supply and rice supply crises continue to distract our country next year, much focus is needed on the growing military and political tension with our giant neighbor China.

And I believe that the New Year 2024 may see an armed confrontation between Philippine and Chinese military in the disputed West Philippine Sea or South China Sea, or whatever. So far, China has been playing its usual “cat and mouse game” moving in and out, violating our exclusive economic zones (EEZ) while deliberately stalling on the much-awaited negotiations with ASEAN’s request for a “sea code of conduct”.  Their huge Coast guard ships and fishing militia are constantly bullying and bumping smaller Philippine coast guard-BFAR research vessels, supply ships and local fishermen around Scarborough Shoals. Philippine Marines in that dilapidated BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal are not spared including hundreds of Filipino residents in Pag-asa Island (Thitu) very near the Chinese military reclaimed island Fiery Cross Reef (Subi).  These insults continued unanswered because of the heartbreaking and factual weakness of our defense capability. It is becoming obvious that China is awaiting the “expected rusty sinking of BRP Sierra Madre anytime, then takeover, reclaim and build another military facility in that shoal.  At the time, there was no way we can face the modern weapons of this Chinese military juggernaut.

But that has changed overnight, and recently President Bongbong Marcos put it bluntly, “new problems will now require new solutions”. “The recent attacks of Chinese vessels against Philippine vessels only steeled the country’s determination to uphold its sovereignty within its territory”, he said. “Things are moving very quickly in many parts of the South China Sea and so there are changes in terms of approaches”.  

And now, we’ve seen China became vitriol while belting out numerous warnings to the Philippines.  And what are these new developments that made them angry? Simultaneous moves by the US, Philippines, Japan, and allied forces put on check China’s military islands and their intentions to occupy and build new military facilities in Ayungin and Scarborough.

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In October last year, Japan has donated an air surveillance radar system (ASRS) that can detect all Chinese intrusions, military, or fishing militia within 300 nautical miles. Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro says we now have a clearer picture of what’s happening in the West Philippine Sea and other areas in all our sea and air domain. “We will know who and what they are”, he said.  But AFP’s killer move was the acquisition of anti-aircraft, cruise missile and rocket launch systems for a very active territorial defense. Latest to arrive and immediately deployed are twenty-four (24) HIMARS (High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems), precision rocket artillery which were used successfully by the Ukrainians and can hit ship and land targets within the range of 300 kms.  India, on the other hand, has supplied us its BrahMos supersonic anti-ship cruise missile that has a range of 290 Kms and Mach 2.8-3 speed as part of our Shore Based Missile defense system. Simply put, the continued harassment and bullying of China (such as military lasers, bumping etc.,) can now be answered by our newly refurbished AFP with its now deployed HIMARS, the world’s fastest missile.  

In the meantime, USA, Japan, Australia, Republic of Korea, France, and Germany have all agreed to conduct joint patrols with the Philippine Coast Guard in the disputed seas. A move now seen as a direct challenge on the nine-dash line claim of China. This would also minimize or stop further “Chinese expansion plans” in both Ayungin and Scarborough shoals and their “ominous “presence over our local population in Pag-asa Island.  This will again minimize if not stop Chinese fishing boats from intermittently going in and out of our EEZ in the Sulu Sea and assembling as many as 200 boats off the coast of Palawan Island. 

ALL Intrusion by the China and their adventurous fishing militia can now be checked militarily by our AFP. At last, we now have the capability to sink these ships if they turn violent in violating our sovereignty.  Our neighboring ASEAN countries differ in their handlings, Indonesia opened fire on trespassing Chinese vessels in 2019 in their Natuna islands, that also overlap with China’s nine dash nine line. Malaysia, backed by its military, arrests, then detain trespassing Chinese fishermen who enter Malaysian territory though our Philippine southern backdoor. Malaysia also rejects the new China’s standard map that include areas off the coast of Malaysian Borneo. We have experienced a majority of these in the past but ended weak and insulted. 

In the eyes of Filipinos surveyed by Oculum, China has become the least trusted country in their October survey last year. In July also last year, Pulse Asia says 36 percent of Pinoys are already wary in China, while earlier surveys said 36 percent of SWS’ respondents classified China’s approval rating as bad. We must remember that even the popular ex-president Digong Duterte failed to raise the trust ratings of China.

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It was on April 12, 2012, when China seized Scarborough shoal in the standoff between the PCG, CCG vessels, the Philippine Navy vessels, Chinese Navy vessels and Chinese fishing militia. We were then abandoned by the Americans and clearly our own Coast guard and navy are no match, and so the rest is history.

If this skirmish happens again within this new year 2024, China’s navy, coast guard and fishing militia will face a different Philippines within our territory, our exclusive economic (EEZ) in Scarborough, Ayungin, Pagasa and anywhere in the country. We will always seek peace with our giant neighbor, but we will not allow anymore their expansionist schemes at our expense.

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TAGS: Armed Forces of the Philippines, High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, Maritime Dispute, Sharp Edges, West Philippine Sea

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