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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Strengthening national security

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How important is the redeployment of military personnel at this time?

It’s an urgent one, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. emphasized recently, in light of new geopolitical realities and the territorial and maritime disputes in the West Philippine Sea.

“As we move now from focusing on ensuring internal security for the country, we now have to bolster the country’s external defenses. And I exhort the DND and the AFP to maximize and strategically review the deployment of our forces to ensure their strategies remain responsive to the current and future geopolitical realities.”

The Chief Executive and commander-in-chief urged the Navy to strengthen its capabilities by “partnering with forces from like-minded states to uphold our shared commitment to freedom of navigation, peace and stability, and the rule of law.”

The president was speaking at the 67th anniversary rites of the Cavite-headquartered Naval Special Operations Command, the elite unit of the Philippine Navy specializing in counter-terrorism, reconnaissance, close combat, and underwater operations, among others.

While it is the Navy that requires immediate personnel redeployment following the increased tensions in the West Philippine Sea, it makes eminent sense to do the same thing across the other major service commands: Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, Marines.

Such redeployment is inevitable as part of the government’s military modernization program.

The question is whether the nation can afford the huge costs involved in upgrading military bases, acquiring modern armaments, and providing advanced training in warfare, among others.

A bigger budget for the military will necessarily mean resources for combating poverty through economic development and provision of vital social services such as education and health would be reduced.

But that may be the trade-off, given the need to protect the country from external threats.

AFP modernization is an urgent concern.

But clear priorities must be identified.

While external threats should be addressed, there are still internal threats.

The communist insurgency, while whittled down from its peak of an estimated 25,000 at its height in the 1980s to only around 2,000, according to the AFP, remains a security concern in some regions.

Then there’s the remnants of terrorist groups in southern Philippines, such as the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, the military cannot simply ignore nor dismiss outright as insignificant.

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