IN a rare display of openness and volubility, US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg, at a media forum in Quezon City, answered questions about the US-Philippines defense alliance, and offered some new revelations of what the US and other countries are prepared to do to assist the Philippines in achieving credibility in its defense and security posture.
He disclosed, among other things, that the US has earmarked funds to rehabilitate about eight military bases in the Philippines in line with the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) between our two countries, which seeks to upgrade our security alliance for blunting China’s aggressive expansion in the South China Sea.
Not a security blanket or excuse for Nynoying
It is important for the Philippines to treat this show of US interest in our defense and security in the proper light and in the right spirit.
We should not look on it as as “a security blanket” or worse, as an excuse for “noynoying.”
Rather it is an opportunity for the Philippines to plan more cohesively and resolutely the development of national defense capabilities, in a way that will free us from perpetual dependence on US support and protection.
It is time for the nation to commit to the full modernization of our armed forces, by allocating a substantial share of the annual budget to this effort.
When we note that the Aquino government has spent or committed P50 billion of public money for the failed Bangsamoro project in Mindanao, we should realize that we can do so much more with the budget in advancing our defense and security goals.
We should complement what the US will direct to us in terms of military assistance and
spending, with our own judicious spending on defense and security needs.
As the national economy gathers strength and expands, so should expand the level of national defense capabilities, and the professionalization of our armed services.
At the media forum, Ambassador Goldberg disclosed that about $66 million dollars in foreign military funding is already in process for the Philippines under EDCA.
Also in the works is the transfer of a third high-endurance cutter and research ship this year. A similar, former US ship now patrols Philippine territory after it was transformed into the Philippine Navy’s flagship.
The ambassador noted that while there will be no new bases under the pact, the US is firmly committed to helping upgrade Philippine defense capabilities. He said: “We expect there will be additional sources of funds for both carrying out EDCA through military construction funds and increases in maritime security initiative.”
A minimum credible defense
Goldberg stressed that EDCA is designed to support Philippine efforts at “building a minimum credible defense” by modernizing our ill-equipped armed forces to address what he called “21st century challenges.”
He also revealed that “Japan, Australia, and other countries are also participating in helping the Philippines build credible minimum defense. “These are parallel efforts to make sure we are collaborating together,” he said.
This is all very positive news that should be met by serious, professional and complete cooperation on our end.
Now more than ever, it is vital for the Philippine military and our defense officials to show a high level of leadership, vision and patriotism. The goal should be nothing less than a substantial improvement of national defense capabilities during the term of the next administration that will be sworn into office on June 30 this year.
If President Barack Obama can issue “an ironclad commitment” to the defense of our country under the PH-US mutual Defense Treaty, so must we Filipinos, especially our defense establishment and our government, issue our complete and total commitment to the buildup of national defense capabilities at this critical time in our history.
We must do this not because of what other countries may be doing here in our part of the world.
We must do this because we owe it to the generations of our people who laid the foundations of our nationhood; we owe it to the generations living today; and we owe it finally to our posterity, who should inherit a nation that is self-reliant, proud and free.