“With a new defense team under Secretary Jose Faustino Jr, we hope that he will reinvigorate the programs started by Lorenzana and perhaps introduce new ones that might have been missed or not included due to budgetary limitations.”
As Defense OIC Jose Faustino Jr said himself during the turnover, it would be hard filling the shoes left by former Defense Chief Delfin Lorenzana.
This is because the defense establishment is now admittedly in a much better shape.
Lorenzana must be feeling proud with what he has accomplished in his six years as Defense Chief. He should take a well-deserved bow.
There are still of course, a lot more to be done to be at par with our neighbors, but he set something in motion that is irreversible.
Just before leaving office, he signed a couple of contracts to go ahead with the acquisition of more naval assets such as the six offshore patrol vessels and early warning equipment such as radars.
This includes the recently launched fast-attack interdictor craft missiles (FAIC-M) which eventually would total nine from Israel.
All told, the Philippine Navy would be acquiring about 19 new naval ships of varying types.
In 2016, the Aquino administration procured 12 FA50 South Korean single engine fighter planes but as our military planners realize and know very well, we need better fighter planes and naval assets with more sophisticated capabilities to match what our neighbors already have.
This is because in spite of all our efforts, we are still one of the weakest in the region in terms of modern military assets.
Fortunately, PBBM, in his speech during the 75th Air Force anniversary, said it is necessary for the Air Force to have more modern air assets.
The fact that his first official act as President is about AFP modernization bodes well for the new DOD team.
Lorenzana’s accomplishments were not only limited in the area of arms acquisition but he also played an important moderating role in tempering some of the policy moves of former President Duterte.
For instance, when then President Duterte suddenly announced the abrupt termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement with the United States and the cancellation of the yearly Balikatan military exercises with the US, Lorenzana was one of those who patiently counseled the president to rescind his decision.
Gradually, the Balikatan military exercises was resumed and just a year before the President left office, the biggest Balikatan exercise was conducted and the VFA is still in force with indications that the agreement might be reviewed to better suit the times that we are in.
Delfin Lorenzana did an excellent job as Secretary and he will be missed.
With a new defense team under Secretary Jose Faustino Jr, we hope that he will reinvigorate the programs started by Lorenzana and perhaps introduce new ones that might have been missed or not included due to budgetary limitations.
Foremost among these is the need for more capable fighter planes that should be procured in spite of our modest paying capability.
The previous administration has been at a quandary whether to go for the Swedish fighter plane Saab JAS 30 Gripen or the most advanced version of the United States F16 fighter plane. In 2021, the United States State Department approved the possible sale of 12 of the newest versions to us including training, spare parts, and more.
Hopefully, a deal could still be made so that we can get a more capable fighter plane than the FA50. It is pointless to procure fighter planes that will completely be outgunned by the planes already available in the region. At the end of the day, we know that modernization is not only all about sophisticated modern weapons.
Because if we look around us, the powers that be can easily swallow us due to their immense military and economic capability. We must also review our training, organization, doctrines, and our relationship with our friends and allies who share the same values as ourselves.
We obviously cannot defend our country all by ourselves because of our limited capability. This is where alliances become important.
But this will depend on our elected leaders who will decide which direction the country will go. In the last administration, we heard for the first time about the policy of wanting to be a friend of all countries and an enemy of no one.
Whether this is possible considering what is going on in the region in geopolitical terms is another matter.
One pertinent question to ask about this new policy is whether our country will be left alone if there is a conflagration between the powers in the region.
History teaches that this in all probability will not happen.
Perhaps, our leaders in the end will decide that the best remaining option is simply to prepare ourselves the best way we can so that if we have to defend our country, our armed services can give a good accounting of themselves to make us all proud.