The Department of National Defense is on the right track in prioritizing the modernization of our Navy and Coast Guard in the face of what Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro has described as China’s “egregious” violations of maritime safety and a rules-based order in the West Philippine Sea.
It is true that China’s growing brazenness in asserting its sweeping maritime claim over practically the whole of the vital sealane requires the Philippine government to build a credible deterrent posture, and only an honest-to-goodness modernization could make that possible.
“We will carry it out through a comprehensive re-strategization, along with forging alliances. It’s natural. Alliances are normal, even China has alliances. So we have to start ‘re-horizoning’ and ‘rethinking’ modernization,” he said during the recent commissioning by the Navy of two Cyclone-class patrol coastal ships donated by the US.
In addition, human resource skills and retraining of both military and civilian workers are needed to speed up the transition to territorial defense.
The Defense Secretary delivered the important policy statement after our Coast Guard resupply boats were able to slip past Chinese Coast Guard and maritime militia vessels to deliver provisions to BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal where a handful of Marines are stationed.
It is absolutely correct for the government to continue to resupply BRP Sierra Madre even in the face of dangerous harassment of our vessels by the Chinese Coast Guard and Chinese maritime militia. The irresponsible behavior on the part of the CCG and maritime militia should be roundly condemned by the international community.
Building alliances with other countries is crucial. We have an “ironclad” commitment from the US that the Mutual Defense Treaty signed back in 1951 would come into effect should the tension in the South China Sea escalate.
Part of our longstanding defense cooperation with Washington is the recent launching of two naval vessels now renamed BRP Valentin Diaz (PS177) and BRP Ladislao Diwa (PS178).
During the occasion, US Ambassador MaryKay Carlson commended the Philippines’ “courageous” stand in upholding international order and in defending our rights in the West Philippine Sea at an “important time when the maritime security environment in the Indo-Pacific is increasingly complex.”
We are also enhancing military drills and security cooperation not only with the United States but also with Australia and Japan to protect national sovereignty and territorial integrity.
But we cannot rely solely on such alliances for our own security; we have to modernize our own military to deal with any external threat.
We should start to build up our naval capability in earnest to defend our maritime rights in the West Philippine Sea and strengthen alliances with other allied nations if we hope to secure our nation’s future.