Posted on 10 March 2012 by mikeinmanila
Manila -The Philippine Air force will have six air to surface attack capability for self defense in the months ahead at par with most of its neighbors in the Association of South East Asia. As territorial integrity is an issue with increase brinkmanship on a rival claim to islands in what it calls the West Philippine Sea. Manila will at least have basic air defense capability restored.
Plans include a dozen F-16 Falcons a preliminary discussion with the US Congressional Armed Services committees of both the senate and house has been favorable.
The territory is vital to the Philippines; even as political groups in China have hinted at econimic penalties and some even stronger talk of ‘direct action’ 45% maritime food requirements are in the area contested. As well as over 55% of the Capital regions energy requirements from offshore gas fields.
If Manila loses anything west of Palawan the clear and present danger many do not seem to comprehend is power and food security will be put at risk. Loss of even one gas production well – would mean an economic disaster of a level equal to the major disasters of the last 20 years combined.
Manila has ‘no-choice’, but to at least maintain the ability to protect its territory in the face of direct threats from the regions strongest economic and a major military power from its north.
Up to the 1960′s the Armed Forces of the Philippines protected their own territory at a level that was second only to the superpower whose base’s shared the island nation.
The Philippine Navy had then a large fleet of capable but aging patrol ships and numerous coastal patrol craft; while slowly growing obsolete – but still in the era of the 1960′s and 70′s capable enough to protect its territory. Plus they had backup in the form of worlds most powerful Navy on call to help defend its territory.
Its Air Force were the first outside of the USA to get F-86 Saber Jets. even before Japan and Korea later along with other US allies it purchased and also received in aid with F-5′s and then by the 1970′s F-8′s,which gave them an equal footing with ASEAN neighbors. For a time the Philippines was more than equal among its region in terms of capability.
It also could when needed count on the 13th Air Force at Clark Airbase for support. When foreign bases closed and technical capability was reduced to the present day where Air Defense is limited at best and airlift capable for all but the most basic of missions. This is changing – with formal talks for the upgrading of airlift and air defense capability.
But, while ASEAN kept pace Malaysia, Indonesia, and, Thailand moved into the 21st century of Naval and Air power. While Manila, focused on internal security issues and at times a restive military which was provided basic tools to carry out missions within its territory. Manila had concerns few in ASEAN faced not one but three insurgent groups. As well as right wing agitators who often pushed things to the brink. Coup attempts happened in the past.
US Support of Strong-man rule cost America it’s bases
After Twenty years, a long period of strongman and martial rule and People Power brought a government that didn’t feel the military was a priority. The further loss of its protective umbrella of a long time ally the USA when a constitutional provision enacted to prevent a repeat of history and lessen its former colonial power’s influence – whom perhaps rightly so where by many blamed for allowing Democracy to be set aside and human rights issues ignored for military basing rights.
Add to this mix as the strong influence of left of center as well as a strong ultra – nationalist lobby ended any possible of but token return during joint exercises its former Commonwealth partner who themselves are not keen on gaining a foothold in islands its flag was lowered. The political space of the mid 1980′s whose focus was primarily domestic political issues has now a decade into the 21st century been awaken to the realty that in order to ensure peace one must be prepared with the tools to defend its territory.
While the late President Corazon Aqino herself supported the retention of US bases until 2010 and the Philippines could build a credible territorial defense her allies in the Senate failed to ratify the extension of the bases. This primarily was because of a the strong lobby of leftist and strong anti-american blocs in Philippine civil society who blamed the USA and its government for two decades of dictatorship.
While front groups supported by the left of center political blocks allied with the communist new peoples army and national democratic front played a role in the ending of the US presence – it was largely a strong anti-US sentiment that to this day still hold sway in many groups in the ruling class of Philippine society even today – who refuse consistently any proposals for any US military presence in the country.
Primarily because of sentiments that the Martial Law era in the Philippine would have never happened had the US government not allowed it. No US leader has ever apologized for it – both political parties Democrats and Republicans benefited from the Marcos era. Some financially when political donations were still legal under old US campaign finance rules. At some point in the future perhaps some American leader might solve this stumbling block to renewed closer ties – an issue that needs closure before any renewed discussions can come close to restoring more normal allied ties.