Last of two parts
THANKS to the Aquino admi nistration’s blind support and aggressive salesmanship for Washington’s ‘Pacific Pivot’ strategy to shift 60% of its naval forces to Asia, the Philippines is now among the leading strategic threats in Beijing’s naughty list. And that now constitutes the biggest external security threat to the nation.”
The above paragraph from “The growing nuclear threat to the Philippines.” published April 15, underscores the third disturbing truth about the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement.
Fact No. 3: EDCA makes the country a strategic threat against China, which would then include the archipelago among missile targets.
Many US warships can fire cruise missiles, including the Tomahawk BM-109 able to carry the W80 nuclear warhead packing as much as nine times the destructive power of the Hiroshima bomb. With its 2,500-km range, the BM-109 can hit from the Philippines eight of China’s ten largest cities, plus Xiamen, ancestral city of many Filipino-Chinese.
Since mid-2013, several Arleigh Burke-class destroyers with 90 projectiles each visited the country, plus the submarine USS Ohio, with seven missiles for each of its 22 tubes; the Virginia-class USS North Carolina, with 12 rocket launchers; and the Los Angeles-class subs USS Cheyenne and USS Louisville, also with a dozen missile tubes each.
Washington doesn’t confirm or deny the presence of atomic weapons on its vessels and aircraft. Hence, Beijing must assume that any ship, sub or plane capable of delivering nukes has them. And with US warships sailing hereabouts, the People’s Liberation Army will necessarily include the Philippines in PLA missile sights.
Thus, in the false hope that American forces would help fend off Chinese encroachments in distant, largely uninhabited seas, President Benigno Aquino 3rd has provoked an immensely deadlier missile threat against our main islands and waters.
And in every future Sino-American tension or conflict, even those with nil interest or involvement for us, the Philippines would be dragged in as a staging area for US forces. Indeed, it is close to three potential flashpoints: Taiwan, Korea, and the Senkaku/Diaoyutai islands claimed by both Beijing and Tokyo.
Fact No. 4: Escalating US deployment in the Philippines gives China more reason to expand military facilities and forces near the archipelago.
Besides nuclear missiles capable of hitting China, the mammoth Seventh Fleet can also interdict freight passing the South China Sea, including four-fifths of Chinese energy imports. Thus, the EDCA gives the PLA even more reason to expand naval and air forces in areas near the Philippines as a counterforce to American might capable of threatening vital sea lanes.
Hence, not only is the expansion of US forces in the country unhelpful in addressing South China Sea tensions; it also provokes and justifies the PLA buildup in waters near the Philippines. Can one think of a dumber and more dangerous deal than the EDCA?
Not a few analysts entertain the thought that US military might and technology would defeat, if not deter Chinese attack. But others fear the Seventh Fleet is vulnerable, and would need to upgrade anti-missile defenses, electronic warfare, and stealth capabilities to survive massive PLA rocket barrages if there is war.
Whichever viewpoint is right, it is suicidal for the Philippines to be in the middle of any such reckoning, with Chinese warheads seeking out American targets in our bases, lands, waters and airspace.
Not to mention facing the economic, geopolitical, and military pressures China would bring to bear on any country letting itself be used in mounting attacks. That’s what the United States did to Cuba for nearly hosting Soviet missiles in 1962, locking the island out of the world’s paramount growth engine till today. Let’s not become China’s Cuba.
Fact No. 5: We can defend our UNCLOS zone without the EDCA.
The irony is we don’t even need the EDCA to counter Chinese intrusions. In its paper “The Geostrategic Return of the Philippines,” Washington defense think tank Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments urged US security assistance “to help the Philippines develop its own set of ‘anti-access/area denial’ [A2/AD] capabilities … maritime surveillance aircraft, coastal anti-ship defenses, and air defense systems.”
Yet America doesn’t seem keen for the Philippines to build up such defenses, which would reduce dependence on the Seventh Fleet. The good news is we can buy the needed A2/AD systems.
Former National Security Adviser and Parañaque Representative Roilo Golez has long urged purchasing and deploying the Russo-Indian BrahMos supersonic anti-ship missile, which can cover the entire 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ). Mounted in threes on trucks, the hard-to-detect projectiles can be moved where tensions are. It can sink all but the most sophisticated warships within its 300-400-km range. Vietnam has told India it wants to buy batteries of the $3-million missile.
US Naval Academy graduate Golez says 200 BrahMos rockets should be enough to defend the EEZ. Along with ancillary equipment, the entire system would cost about P27 billion. And since the projectiles would help secure offshore oil fields, they can be funded from Malampaya royalties earmarked for energy projects, of which more than P130 billion is still available. With the BrahMos or a similar system defending our EEZ, we will be more secure than with nuclear-capable US vessels and aircraft in our land, watched by PLA ballistic forces.
So what’ll it be, Honorable Senators — hanging again on Uncle Sam’s coattails, or self-reliant defense befitting a sovereign Philippines?
(The first part was published yesterday.)