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Yes, The Philippines Is Defenseless

December 23, 2013

Giant Wave

Two weeks ago The Diplomat published Manila’s Defense Conundrum by Victor Robert Lee. In it, Lee discussed the Philippine military’s poor response to the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan, which devastated entire provinces and killed thousands.

An excerpt:

Remarkably, the two lead ships of the Philippine navy were inactive during the critical week following the typhoon. The Gregorio del Pilar and the Ramon Alcaraz, two 1960s-era former U.S. Hamilton-class coastguard cutters transferred to the Philippine navy in the past two years, were moored at Subic Bay in the northern part of the country, the site of a former U.S. naval base.


Nor did the Philippine air force shine in the crisis. The New York Times reported that due to a lack of spare parts, the nation’s fleet of C-130 cargo planes, heavy-lift transporters useful for relief efforts (as well as defense), had been whittled down to two or three aircraft. IHS Jane’s Defense Weekly reported that of the Philippine air force’s 44 Huey helicopters, only 28 were functioning.

Lee’s detailed briefing is an excellent primer on the Philippines’ inability to defend–and preserve–itself.

Haiyan’s aftermath revealed the true state of the country’s armed forces and how its over-reliance on foreign assistance is a crutch rather than a god-send. While the Philippines can count on its neighbors and allies in times of need, when the job is done, the country is still left with its shortcomings intact.

Luckily, the international community’s heroic relief effort was able to mitigate the post-disaster situation, where millions of homeless citizens were left without food, shelter, and even potable water.

In fairness, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) are acquiring new equipment and weapons to better perform its constitutional role.

Last month, for example, the Philippine Air Force (PAF) received new AW-109 helicopters.

This year, the administration of President Aquino inked a deal with South Korea for a squadron of FA-50 jets.

In September, the Philippine Marines acquired six riverine patrol vessels handed over by outgoing US ambassador Harry Thomas.

The Philippine Navy (PN), on the other hand, will get a third decommissioned Hamilton-class patrol vessel and possibly a new frigate and anti-submarine warfare helicopters. UAVs and better facilities closer to the contentious South China Sea/West Philippine Sea are now its priorities as well.

The AFP are upgrading their main battle rifle, the M16A1, to the A2 and M4 standard. A contract with Remington for 50,000 M4’s was signed this year.

So there’s improvement, even if just a little tiny bit.

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