Tuesday, July 31, 2012

How Would the Philippines Fare in the West Philippine Sea Dispute Against China?


There’s some respite, albeit so least, to the problems faced by the Philippines in the West Philippine Sea dispute against China. Japan had recently announced that it will be donating 12 brand new patrol boats to the Philippines to help our coast guard establish that “minimum credible defense”.

This was revealed by Minister Shinsuke Shimizu, head of the Japanese Embassy’s chancery, to the Philippine Daily Inquirer in an interview on Thursday.

Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario earlier had confirmed that Japan was likely to provide the Coast Guard with 12 patrol boats.

BRP Corregidor, the gunship that put up a gallant stand in Scarborough Shoal last April against a hoard of Chinese maritime ships, was also donated by Japan 15 years ago.

Of course, 12 patrol boats would not in any way signify an upward dent in the Philippines capability to defend its sea coasts especially against China. And this becomes the main problem that lays our diplomatic maneuvers almost valueless and almost always just flown up into thin air and passing deft ears among Chinese officials.

Just how ready are we to engage enemies intruding our sea territories? Obviously, the answer is far from ideal.

Just after Martial Law, we were touted in Asia as having one of the well-fitted air force having fleets of F5 Northrop Tiger Jets in our inventory, along with F8 Crusaders numbering to more than a hundred units of fighter planes, in addition to about 50 PAF 1950’s Mustang  usable fighter planes.
But since then, dilapidation and depreciation had rendered our air defense capability to almost nil were it not for the acquisition of OV-10 Broncos from the United States and Thailand in 1991, to replace the retired fleet of F5’s.

Aside from the Broncos, all we have are Italian S-211 trainers that were merely retrofitted for ground support.

Our naval force is in the same predicament with only nine major gunships in our lone fleet highlighted by BRP Gregorio del Pilar, one of two Hamilton class gunships acquired in 2011 from the United States, and the Philippine-made landing craft BRP Tagbanua commissioned in November of last year. The arrival this year of the two Hamilton class cutters would somehow give our navy a breather from having such a small number of gunships in its fleet.

The AFP modernization program somehow gained ground after dragging on for years and years in the boardroom with the recent acquisition of 4 Sokol helicopters from Poland in addition to the two Hamilton class gunships.

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin stated that there would be 138 project contracts waiting for implementation in the next five years.

Hope arises anew with the recent passing of a bill revising the 1996 AFP Modernization Law, which was perceived by many critics to have major flaws and infirmities that had laid the program entirely stagnant and paralyzed. The new bill would immediately set aside P 500 B to augment the defense of our territory in the most near possible future, in the midst of our recent predicament in Scarborough Shoal. The bill is said to revise tedious procurement procedures that had dragged the program for years. This is aimed at speeding up acquisition processes of new military materials, especially for PAF and Philippine Navy.

Still, with all these planned acquisition under the revised AFP Modernization Program, our capability to defend our sea coast from the repeated and incessant intrusion of Chinese military and maritime vessels would be highly uncertain and even dubious at most.

If at all, we only have the gallantry and patriotism of our armed forces to hold on to if everything comes to a head in the West Philippine Sea - and not much else.
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