this spratly thing


Philippine Marines on the former BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal. Photo credit:

Iloilo City – With all the advisers that they have at their disposal, it is so frustrating to continue to hear unrealistic, at best, and totally inane, at worst, ideas about how to deal with the Spratly Islands (or Kapuluan ng Kalayaan) dispute. I get the UNCLOS thing and the multilateral talks approach. What usually follows next is the standard line on military modernization. The latter part, I don’t quite get.

We are not going to go into an all-out war with China. Despite its aggressive military stance, China will not go into an all-out war with the Philippines. China will continue its one reef, one sandbar or whatever, at a time invasion. The only way to stop them would be to put a strong enough force to serve as a deterrent to further conquests. I’m not even sure we can do that. The Philippine Armed Forces does not have the capability to garrison, much less, defend these little reefs.

Realistically speaking, our best bet is still having the US Navy staking a presence in the area.

Even as our Vice Presidential candidates talk about this military modernization, it is befuddling to note that no mention was made of the 18 soldiers killed in Basilan just the day before. We seem to have become manhid to the continued sacrifice of our soldiers. Again, no one will be called to account for the tragic death of our soldiers. This guy Napenas (of Mamasapano fame) even has the gall to run for Senator as part of the UNA slate.

The military seems to be in denial about the burgeoining IS presence in Mindanao. This latest loss of the lives of 18 soldiers of the 44th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army was attributed to the Abu Sayyaf when it seems that this is a breakaway group which has pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Despite all those intelligence funds sloshing around in the budgets of the military and non-military agencies of government, this failure again highlights the incomprehensible defeat at the hands of what had been a group of bandits.

My point is this – we focus too much on military modernization relative to this Spratly thing while our soldiers continue to die at the hands of a lightly-armed insurgent group. Isn’t it way past time for the military and its civilian leadership to take a hard look at itself and figure out why they always run into ambushes? It’s always the same story – someone gets kidnapped, military in hot pursuit of bandits responsible for kidnapping, military ambushed, soldiers die. Sobra nang kawawa ang ating mga foot soldiers and their families while their generals enjoy the country club life in Villamor, Bonifacio, Aguinaldo or wherever they have those military-run golf courses.

It has become tragically obvious that for far too long, our military has been and continues to be outsmarted by insurgents who run rings around them. If this were a one-off thing, you could attribute this to a an everything went wrong, this won’t happen again event. But these have not been isolated cases. Instead it points to a serious systemic problem within our armed forces which calls into question their tactics, training and everything else that characterizes a military organization.

It is only fair to ask that with all the billions that we have spent on the armed forces, does the Philippines actually have the military that it needs to face our country’s unique situation? It seems to me that we don’t.

The Filipino soldier will likely never fight in a war against China. But, it is certain that the Filipino soldier will fight the cadres of the New People’s Army, the Filipino soldier will fight the bandits of Abu Sayyaf, the Filipino soldier will fight the growing number of IS proxies and so on so forth. The question is – is the Filipino soldier properly equipped in terms  of training, tactics, weaponry and logistics to fight this kind of war?

So, to our dear leaders – if you really want to know, the Filipino soldier doesn’t care about modernization in terms of China, they care about the little things – a working rifle, night-vision goggles, electronic intelligence, working communications systems, the right training and tactics, modern helicopters (not those refurbished Hueys ha) to provide close air support and MedEvac, etc., etc. The Filipino soldier needs the little things that will help him fight a war that they are now fighting and not things that will be of use in a war with China that they will never fight. So take those 12 P1.5 billion per piece FA-50PH fighter jets and go fight China yourself











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