Flawed Philippines – USA Mutual Defense Treaty Resulted the loss of Scarborough Shoal – New Doctrine for External Security Seen

In Photo: Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin (center), Air Force chief Lt. Gen. Lauro Catalino de la Cruz (right) and Sweden's SAAB Vice President Kaj Rosander  in a huddle during the "Air Power" symposium on Thursday held at the SMX building at the Mall of Asia in Pasay City. (Zaff Solmerin)

Philippines's shift to external defense seen

The Philippines has experienced a number of territorial issues over the last several years. Most of these issues have involved China intruding into territorial waters, and in some regard have resulted in the loss, if not invasion, of Philippine sovereign territories such as the Mischief Reef in Palawan and the (Panatag) Scarborough Shoal off Zambales Province.

In the last six months, those issues have further extended to other neighbors such as Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam.

Effectively, the Philippines has no naval or air forces to impede or deny access to its territorial waters, thereby the only recourse has been through diplomatic means, which have yielded very little results.

Over the last several decades, the Philippines has focused on internal security operations (ISO) and has relied on its Mutual Defense Treaty with the United States to tend to its external defenses.

However, given the new global climate wherein the United States has shifted focus to Asia, US alignment has broadened to several other nations, including those involved in current territorial issues with the Philippines.

This, coupled with the current US financial crisis, has caused the Philippines's historical treaty partner to step back and away from Philippine territorial issues.

As a result, the reliance on the Mutual Defense Treaty with the United States has effectively resulted in the loss of external defenses for the Philippines at a period in history where it is needed most.

The current direction of modernization was conceptualized under different circumstances, limited understanding and obvious misconceptions.

During those times, it was a widely held belief that the United States would continue to support external defense through the US Navy (USN) and aid in modernizing the Philippine Navy (PN) and Air Force (PAF).

However, recent history has shown that Philippine expectations on the political will of the US to support the Philippines's military modernization plans have been gravely misconceived.

The 1960s era retired Hamilton-class US Coast Guard cutters supplied to the PN clearly demonstrates this misconception. Expected to be a modern combat vessel, the BRP Gregorio del Pilar, the fist to be delivered, showed a number of flaws, to include improper ballast system, lack of spare parts, need for restoration and insufficient power generation. Furthermore, the electronics equipment and weapons systems were completely removed and replaced with an antiquated 76mm gun and no longer state-of-the-art fire control systems.

In the case of the PAF, its attempt to obtain the F-16 multirole fighters would have been the next and most appropriate evolution from their F-5 fighters decommissioned in 2005.

Evolution to the F-16 has been the case for many other nations worldwide with full support from the US.

However, in the recent global climate, the political will of the US to support its allies directly in conflict with China have diminished. For the PAF, the supply of F-16 fighters were negated owing to the official US position that maintenance costs were found to be excessive for the Philippines. Although this point could be argued, the larger perspective shows Taiwan also being denied the purchase of F-16 fighters during the same time period. Taiwan already has an F-16 fleet, so some other political issue was used to prevent supply of the fighter plane to Taiwan.

In a broader perspective, other ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) countries have purchased missiles from the US for their aircraft, but the US has withheld the deliveries, storing them instead in US facilities until the US government determines an appropriate time for their release.

With that, one must consider how a sovereign nation can purchase articles for its own national defense, and yet be at the mercy of another nation's discretion as to when and if they can use them.

Recent history has demonstrated that the original concept for Philippine military modernization with regards to external defense has been flawed, simply because of a lack of consideration to the changing environment and a misconception of support from the US. This direction would further degrade the sovereignty of the Philippines and allow continued unimpeded access by other countries to its sovereign territories.

Foundation for territorial defense concepts

EXTERNAL defense has traditionally been a concept of preventing invading forces from reaching Philippine soil. However, a new outlook toward Territorial Defense must be taken in order to defend Philippine resources at sea and understand the need to properly modernize and prepare the PN and PAF for combat readiness to defend the Philippine exclusive economic zone.

For an archipelago such as the Philippines, traditional thinking requires massive naval forces to defend its seas and littoral areas. However, military and political history has shown that an arms race, such as that of the US and the Soviet Union during the Cold War, can be won on the financial front, and not necessarily on the front lines.

Furthermore, conventional warfare can be extremely expensive when an opponent follows a more unconventional, guerrilla doctrine as shown in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Spearheaded by the special operations community, an evolution in warfare has developed into a cost-effective unconventional doctrine that focuses on having greater situational awareness and conducting more precise and effective use of forces.

Learning from these new doctrines, the Philippines can benefit from many of the advantages to include efficient use of resources, rapid employment of new technologies and increased operational readiness

With report from Business Mirror

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