Giving its armed forces modern tools and equipment is a responsibility no government should shirk.
If past administrations have anything to account for before the people it is their failure to turn the Philippine Armed Forces into something that foreign aggressors would not dismiss so peremptorily.
The boldness with which the Chinese seize islets, shoals, and reefs that rightfully belong to us can be attributed to this criminal neglect.
One president, for example, cut deals with the Chinese, while they were drawing up plans to chip away at our territorial waters. Now the enemy is implementing those plans, first building structures at the Spratlys, then trying to occupy Panatag Shoal and Ayungin Shoal.
In fairness to the Taiwanese, their only sin is poaching in our fishing grounds. They do not lay claim to it. We can thus do business with them, if they can take a rational approach to that unfortunate incident, at which Filipino coast guards killed that Taiwanese fisherman.
The Taiwanese government all but threatened us with war. It did so obviously because it believed we didn’t have the wherewithal to call its bluff. That was—and still is—true, which brings us back to the undeniable point, that we are weak militarily and economically.
On the other hand, not only do the Chinese make it a habit to encroach into our territorial waters, they are now driving us away from our traditional fishing grounds.
It is thus imperative that the Philippines arm itself. And to give credit where credit is due, we should be grateful to President Benigno Aquino 3rd for doing just that.
The other day, the President announced the current administration’s laundry list of military hardware.
After the acquisition of two Hamilton-class ships,the government is now negotiating for the purchase of a brand-new frigate. There are also plans to acquire 18 anti-submarine and multi-purpose helicopters, 30 gunboats, 18 landing craft, 12 coastal patrol boats, and a host of others.
Even submarines—three of them—are being considered. So are three mine laying and clearing vessels.
In our considered opinion, the submarines are not really needed, and besides they come with hefty price tags. It is imperative, however, that we acquire the mine laying ships as soon as practicable. After all, our primary objective is to deny the enemy entry into our maritime territory, and mines strategically laid out in critical areas should do the trick.
Under the UN Convention on the Law of the Seas or UNCLOS, the Spratlys, Panatag, and Ayungin are ours.
We are a sea-faring people, and our descendants have colonized Guam and Hawaii, and the New Zealand, as well as Easter Island near Chile in South America and Madagascar off the coast of Africa.
It is inconceivable that we could have failed to exercise control over these areas a few miles from our shores—areas that are now being claimed by the Chinese, using the so-called nine-dash line.
Nothing could be more ridiculous than that claim, which by the way was first made by Chiang Kai-Shek, the Chinese communists’ nemesis.
A week ago, the Azkals played a Hong Kong team in a “friendly game” of football in that former British Crown Colony. After their team lost, local fans became so angry they pelted the Filipinos with water bottles and cups, all the while calling them “a nation of slaves.”
Now that our territorial integrity is being violated, we should not give anybody any reason to call us a nation of cowards as well.
That’s why we should be able to defend ourselves, and to do so, we need to modernize our Air Force and Navy—and arm them with missiles and heavy guns. Obviously we cannot do it with rifles and tanks, the equivalent of bows and arrows and horses.
From all indications, the Chinese intend to take by force anything they could.
How long can we last against the might of the third largest military force in the world, after the United States and the Russian Federation?
Not very long, we’re afraid. But that’s where the RP-US Mutual Defense Treaty should come into play.
If we talk of credible defense, it could only mean being able to defend ourselves in the initial phase of the battle, if things come to that. After that, our ally should come to our rescue, or at least scare off the aggressor.
It may seem the height of naivety to assume that our ally, like the US Cavalry of old, would come to our aid. But that’s what the treaty is all about, if it means anything at all.