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The Philippines is increasingly finding itself in the middle of military flash points across the Far East. Over at the West Philippine Sea, the country’s biggest warship, the BRP Gregorio del Pilar is engaged in a standoff with two Chinese surveillance vessels standing in the way of the arrest of Chinese fishermen caught allegedly poaching in Philippine waters. On the northeast, the launch of an Unha-3 North Korean ballistic missile is being anticipated. The multi-stage rocket is expected to jettison its second-stage booster somewhere over Philippine waters off northeastern Luzon. However, in the event that the rocket veers off course, the Philippine mainland may be at risk from both debris and the rocket itself crashing into land.


[Photo courtesy Zero Hedge.]

Any significantly adverse impact the North Korean rocket launch may have on Filipinos may be very highly unlikely, and the noise created around it by the media could be just a ploy on the part of (or an unforeseen bonus to) the administration of Philippine President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III that diverts the public’s attention from its increasingly evident lack of achievement almost two years into its term. Nonetheless, the North Korean missile crisis and the Philippines’ claims over the Spratly Islands that brings with it direct confrontation with China highlights the increasing complexity of international relations in the region that the Philippines needs to get on top of.

Already the United States is seen to be increasing its military presence in Asia. A U.S. Marine base had already been established in the Australian city of Darwin which is only 500 miles south of Indonesia. The base is expected to become home to up to 2,500 troops when it reaches full strength. For its part, Australia is planning to spend up to $100 billion on expanding its navy and air force, presumably to improve its ability to defend the booming offshore oil and gas extraction sectors of its economy.

The Philippines too is under pressure to develop capability to exploit mineral resources within its territory — including territory that is still under dispute. But the Philippines of the 21st Century is a far cry from the pompous and cocky persona it exhibited back in the early 1990′s when twelve senators duly elected by the popular vote (and as such presumably representing the Filipino people’s “will”) voted to boot the American Military out of Philippine shores

Thanks to the 12 bozos who voted against US military bases in the Philippines in 1991 — Senate President Jovito Salonga, Sens. Wigberto Tanada, Teofisto Guingona, Rene Saguisag, Victor Ziga, Sotero Laurel, Ernesto Maceda, Agapito Aquino, Juan Ponce Enrile, Joseph Estrada, Orlando Mercado, and Aquilino Pimentel — Filipinos have, right in their faces today, a sad lesson twenty years in the making in what it is like to languish outside the American sphere of what is globally relevant.


Former US Navy Base in Subic Bay [Photo courtesy SBMA.com.]

Nonetheless, America continues to make its albeit distant embrace felt by its former colony. Back in early 2011, despite claims made by the US Government that the US “has no plans to reestablish military bases [in Subic Bay] or anywhere in the Philippines”, there were reports of “high level” meetings between US officials and Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) and Olongapo City officials. Subic Bay used to be the largest American naval base in the Far East and was home to the US Navy’s Seventh Fleet. US Senators Daniel Inouye and Thad Cochran who respectively chair and officiate the US Senate appropriations committee reportedly at the time expressed (1) interest in “the possibility of an increased presence of the US military in the [Philippines]” and (2) “curiosity” around “the reception in the country of an [increased presence of the US military].” This raised the possibility that Americans may soon be back in Subic Bay and Olongapo City.

For now, spending on a capability to wage war with a foreign country seems hardly the sort of priority that would trump other more “conventional” domestic problems like education, reproductive health, and unemployment in the Philippines. The only measures taken by Philippine authorities in light of the perceived threat from North Korea’s missile launch includes diversion of civil aviation from air space within the missile flight path and temporarily banning shipping in waters deemed at risk from falling rocket debris. Japan and South Korea, in the meantime have expressed their intention to respond with military force against the rocket if any risk to their interests is detected during its flight. Japan has a Patriot missile defense system already scanning the skies in its Okinawa military air base while South Korea announced that it is prepared to respond with appropriate “countermeasures”.

With regard to the naval impasse in the West Philippine Sea, the Philippines has reportedly deployed a second vessel, a search and rescue coast guard vessel, to support the BRP Gregorio del Pilar. Earlier in mid-March of this year, the Philippines signed a standard operating procedure that will govern a joint patrolling of some waters around the Spratly Islands by Philippine and Vietnamese naval forces. Both countries are also increasing its military ties with the US which had also expressed an interest to “continue its efforts to ensure freedom of navigation” in the disputed waters. The Philippine government is seemingly supporting a move on the part of the US to increase its military presence in the region but is cautious with associating this support to its Spratly Islands issues with China…

Aquino emphasised there were many reasons the Philippines needed to increase its military capabilities, including combating terrorism, helping deal with natural disasters and evacuating Filipinos from crises overseas.

But he also talked in depth about the Philippines needing to protect its rights to parts of the South China Sea that are within its 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone and are believed to sit atop vast oil and gas deposits.

For now, the Philippines can only rely on diplomacy and a re-invigorating of its frayed military relationship with its former colonial master to secure its interests. But it seems the need for greater self-sufficiency in its ability to defend its sovereign territories is become more relevant.

[Photos of US Marines courtesy UpdatedNews.ca.]

benign0

benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.

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26 Comments

  • Der Fuhrer says:

    I was one of those who joined the Pro-US Bases rally. My stand was that the Philippines would be stripped of its external defense capability. Those 12 senators should explain why they suddenly kicked the US out of our country. Makes you wonder. Did they do this for show to make them look like patriots and nationalists? I say they are hypocrites who betrayed the defense of the country.

    The moment this happened, the Chinese increased intrusions in the area now dubbed as the west Philippine sea. They even built structures. During the existence of the US bases they did not dare intrude as the US Air force was patrolling the area. The Seventh Fleet also acted as deterrence to Chinese intrusions.

    At present time frame we have no genuine modernized external defense capability. Nothing in the way of upgraded ships, integrated defense systems and planning. We still depend on our American allies. The Chinese are the greatest security threat to the Republic of the Philippines. They are after our oil and natural gas.

  • RJON says:

    AND THEY ARE SAYING THAT AMERICA WILL HELP THE PHILIPPINES IN TIMES OF DIRE NEEDS.,.COME ON WAKE UP PNOYS!,.WHOS AT FAULT ANYWAY!,.BUTI PA JAPAN AT SOKOR.,.AND I THINK EVEN VIETNAM AND SPORE RIGHT NOW.,.THEY ARE BEING GIVEN FREE MILITARY AID BY THE US.,.AND THE PHILIPPINES?,.ITS A PWERA NA NG US!,.

    AND ONE MORE THING I READ THIS ARTICLE.,.NAKAKAHIYANG ISIPIN THAT ONE OF THE MAJOR FLEETS OF US WAS IN THE PHILIPPINES DURING THEYRE STAY SUBIC.,.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/U.S._Naval_Base_Subic_Bay

  • Trosp says:

    Well, look what happened when the US 7th Fleet was not deployed anymore in South China Sea.

    It is located in -

    > south of mainland China and the island of Taiwan,
    > west of the Philippines,
    > north west of Sabah (Malaysia), Sarawak
    (Malaysia) and Brunei,
    > north of Indonesia,
    > north east of the Malay peninsula (Malaysia) and
    Singapore, and
    > east of Vietnam.

  • alconce says:

    Our well armed and well trained SWAT team could not even figure out how to stop a lone hostage taker. What assurance can we expect from our armed forces that they will be able to hold their ground from any disciplined and efficient intruder? The Abu Sayyaf and their MILF handlers and yes the NPA continue to sow mischief for as long as we can remember. Why did we ever drove our well armed and trained security guards. We were not the ones paying them for their services but them guards. These same guards pay their host handsomely for their services in Japan and South Korea.And those two nations can not even be branded as not nationalistic.

  • Legati says:

    The 12 apostles were paid handsomely by their handlers! Nationalist daw. “The pages of history are full of nationalist na magnanakaw.”

  • Peste says:

    For the standoff in Scarborough Shoal, you got to ask how the Chinese were able to speedily mobilize their surveillance ships into position to defend their fishermen. Most likely, these ships are trailing the fishing vessels, meaning, this is a set up.

    The Philippines must take care not to sink or be seen as having attacked the Chinese ships involved in this standoff. Doing so would give the Chinese the excuse to launch their navy and seize the islands that the Philippines is occupying in that sea, maybe sink the few ships that might stand in the way, hold soldiers and civilians in those islands as prisoners for bargaining power, and effectively removing the Philippines from the game of island claims. The Philippines coming off as a perceived aggressor who shot first in the standoff would also give the USA one more excuse to not interfere for the sake of the Philippines.

    The current move to switch from a warship to a presumably unarmed coast guard vessel is therefore a good one, just to minimize the possibility of the flashpoint mentioned above.

  • Hyden Toro says:

    Noynoy Aquino cannot fight a shooting war…he will hide, like what he did during the Luneta Hostage crisis.We have antiquated war materials (World War II vintage). We cannot fight a modern war, with World War II weapons and tactics. Our Generals and Admirals cannot even defeat the NPA and the MILF insurgency…

    • Der Fuhrer says:

      Greetings @Hyden Toro

      Mr. BS Aquino is not a highly trained officer. He is not trained for modern conventional or nuclear war. His title as Commander-and-Chief is just for show. The man is just a traditional politician. He cannot command the Navy fleet as this will just result in chaos. His skill in electronic games combat is far from reality.

      It is Mr. BS Aquino who is at fault. The kid gloves treatment of the NPA and MILF problem is very apparent. Peace at all costs is not for the MILF.

      They are occupying Philippine territory saying this is MILF territory. He refuses to launch campaigns against their base camps as they keep expanding. Bending over in “peace talks” is the sign of weakness. Releasing prisoners and granting amnesty is also seen as weakness.

      Allowing foreign(Malaysian, Libyan, etc.) interference in Mindanao is asking for trouble. Their ideology commands them to aid each other. If the Philippines is to survive, we have to go all-out against the enemies of the state. Dealing from a position of strength is the best option.

      • FallenAngel says:

        If you think about it, leaders from the military are often the ones who advocate force as a last resort. It seems however, that our dear leader (if we can even call him that) is indecisive and/or indifferent.

        His attempts at diplomacy are found wanting. Calling North Korea’s missile launch an “unnecessary act of provocation” fails to take into consideration the viewpoint of the North Koreans that they must honor their founder. He thought that the stigma of the Mendoza hostage situation would go away, but the Chinese do not forget history easily.

        Only a miracle can save us now. No, not him.

      • Hyden Toro says:

        I remember, the Prime Minister Chamberlain of Britain, before World War II. Who tried to appease Nazi Fuhrer Adolf Hitler of Nazi Germany. Hitler wanted Czekoslovakia. Chamberlain gave the country to Hitler. After which, Hitler invaded all of Europe…PM Chamberlain came back to Britain, after the Munich agreement: “This is Peace of our time.” Showing the papers signatures of Hitler…Abnoy is acting the same to the MILF and the NPA…this is very dangerous…

  • Joe America says:

    If I connect the dots, and weed out the tweeners as just a part of the process, I can say unequivocally that the stand off between the Philippine and Chinese boats is Cory Aquino’s fault. I know because I read a comment here at GRP the other day that said Ms. Aquino was the reason the U.S. left, and I can read here today that the shitty military condition and frayed U.S. relationship are caused by the fact that she had a son.

    No where does it say that the military has been decimated by under-funding, favoritism and graft during the Arroyo Administration, which merely shrugged when the last jet’s engines died, and promoted generals if they graduated from the right military academy class. Now we are clubbing the existing President because he is a normal guy of no outstanding military merit shoved in at the top of the military command?

    No, no, I suppose it would be better to have the military as the fourth branch of government. Independent and sitting on all those guns and bombs and bombs and guns. Or maybe reporting to the Chief Justice, now that’s a thought . . .

    I do say, it is easy to spit words.

    Easier than having to figure out an tense, intricate, delicate international situation, and wishing our President well. For in his hands, rests our well-being . . .

    • Bill Steffen says:

      You know Joe sometimes I think you have drinking addiction

      • Joe America says:

        Bill, a pleasure to meet you. My condition is more serious, as I am not allowed to drink because of my blood pressure medications. But I appreciate your concern.

      • Trosp says:

        See, Bill, this dud is a liar.

        His favorite drink according to this dud is San Mig.

        • Joe America says:

          I apologize for the misstatement, trosp. My favorite drink is Del Monte mango juice. My favorite alcoholic beverage is San Mig, which I sneak (1 bottle) on warm and lazy afternoons about twice a week. If I drink it over two hours, it does not affect me in an untoward manner. Thank you for correcting me. I would not want to lose credibility in Bill’s eyes based on anything YOU, one of GRP’s morality police, would say.

        • theenglishpatient says:

          Sir, I am think Joe is a sarcastic when he replies.

          You can denote in his initial sentence and the final one. He reacted in a not angry manner to Bill saying pleasure meeting you and also appreciating on the concernness. I really think this reply is called in figure of speeches, sarcastic remark.

        • Joe America says:

          theenglishpatient,

          Yes, a mixture of truth and sarcasm. I do appreciate Bill commenting on my remarks, but the “condition is more serious” remark was sarcasm. My statement to trosp was also part truth. The last sentence was sarcasm. I’m glad you are sorting things out well (truth).

        • Bill Steffen says:

          And I cannot tell a lie ! My statement was sarcastic!

        • Trorp says:

          Or a satire.

          I’m just a comedian. – Bill Maher

    • Der Fuhrer says:

      @Joe America

      I know for a fact that it was not the fault of then President Cory Aquino. She was also Pro-US Bases. As for her son… He is a different matter. We are clubbing Mr. BS Aquino? You say he is a normal guy. I say he is not. He likes playing electronic combat games. This is far from reality.

      I like playing electronic combat games to review infantry tactics. I know what is real. Mr. BS Aquino is Head of State and Commander-in-Chief. We must remember that first and foremost he is still a civilian and a politician.

      It is the professional military that advises him on what to do. The president cannot act as the Supreme Commander in times of territorial incidents short of war. A Head of State cannot usurp the powers of a military commander. Read the Sun Tzu(Chinese Art of War) on this. To allow the President to command military action would cause chaos and even certain defeat.

      • benign0 says:

        As far as I recall, Cory was pro-US-bases and lobbying for their retention at the time. The US was actually counting on her to assure their continued stay.

      • Joe America says:

        DF, thanks for the clarification. As a corporate executive, I would start every day playing a game or two of hearts on the computer to relax after the tense drive in (Los Angeles) and to “purify my mind” prior to starting the tense day of work. I think the Presidential job is demanding, and I personally don’t care what he does to get his mind off the work.

        Thanks for the notation about the military running things during times of war. I think in the US tthe President is directly involved, but he also has a heavy staff of defense and security counselors. For example, President Obama personally ordered the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

        • Der Fuhrer says:

          @Joe America

          The US is a superpower. The Philippines is not. The US president follows defense protocols SOP and systems. Does Mr. BS Aquino have the same protocol, procedure and systems to conduct a modern war? You should see what happened to his “All out Justice.” We do not have your command and control capability.

  • Der Fuhrer says:

    It’s on GMA News. The North Korean 3 stage rocket had a malfunction and crashed into the yellow sea. A system failure. I hope that it did no damage to shipping or small craft. So much for the panic button pushed by Mr. Robredo and Mr. Ramos.

    • Michael Yap says:

      Yes, I’ve seen the news, by the way, but this is out of the topic question, does military people like Mr. Ramos have their own English language? That Philippine military English annoys me…

  • Don says:

    Here’s a site for Philippine Military discussions:

    http://www.timawa.net/forum/index.php

    Well worth the insight, if you could separate the chaff from the wheat.

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