|DIE HARD III|
|Herman Tiu Laurel|
A mainstream daily came out with the headline, “PH flexes naval muscle,” with a huge photo of the BRP Humabon, a vintage World War II destroyer escort/frigate that is the only warship of the Philippine Navy. Why it decided to put out such a headline projecting the country’s total incapacity to present a credible naval deterrence is beyond me. Was it for self-ridicule (which it did rather successfully)? Or was it to provoke better armed foreign navies to “pick” on us?
As former US Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld said of his country’s position in the world when he quit his post in 2006, “Today, it should be clear that not only is weakness provocative, but the perception of weakness on our part can be provocative as well.”
Thus, if you are a Filipino like Junrey Balawing, 23.5 inches in height, adjudged by the Guinness World Records as the shortest living man in the world, and acting menacing by flexing your pea-sized muscle, the neighborhood bully may well be provoked to beat the crap out of you even just for laughs.
Worse, if that pea-sized muscle is tied to a pea-sized brain, as what TV news anchor Noli de Castro exhibited on air a few days ago, then we know we have a really dumbed-down lot in our midst — unless we expose and discard each one in due course.
It was on one of De Castro’s evening programs, where news reporter Willard Cheng presented both sides in the current Spratlys issue in an even-handed and balanced manner, that the anchor followed Cheng’s closing blurb “Willard Cheng reporting for…” with a sarcastic “China ha… Cheng ha…” that oozed with prejudice and innuendo.
The fact that De Castro was installed as vice-president of this country already speaks a lot about our sad state of affairs; but to hear him blabber such nonsense without seemingly gaining a bit of depth from more than six years in high office certainly beats the midget Junrey’s shortness.
A little study of naval ships reveals the limited capabilities of the BRP Humabon, which is a mere escort ship. Compared to our Asean neighbors, the Philippines has fallen a long way off from the time of Marcos when the Philippine Navy was able to present an imposing presence.
I remember that at the height of the Sabah crisis, the Philippine newspapers presented graphic comparisons of Malaysian and Philippine naval assets, and those silhouettes of ships on the Philippine side outnumbered the Malaysian’s significantly.
Today, Malaysia has two Scorpène class submarines, two Leiku class frigates armed with Exocet missiles, two German Kasturi class frigates, plus an anti-submarine helicopter, corvettes, among others. Singapore has two new Swedish-made submarines launched in 2010, augmenting or substituting four Challenger class submarines. Thailand, meanwhile, is now the only Asean country with an aircraft carrier, the Chakri Naruebet.
Vietnam has spent $1.5 billion (or P64.5 billion) for 6 “Kilo” class submarines from Russia scheduled for delivery in 2010. By 2015, according to Chinese intelligence, Vietnam will receive from the Russian navy two 11,661-type frigates, as well as “Ruby” supersonic anti-ship missiles.
One Chinese view is that since Vietnam neither has nuclear submarines nor “Chinese Aegis” (Ballistic Missile Defense) class destroyers but has “the equipment in the coastal waters (with) anti-ship combat capability… (in the event of any) Sino-Vietnamese naval clashes in the South China Sea,” Vietnam’s occupied territories or facilities may not be lost to the Chinese Navy. In other words, Vietnam is capable of holding its own.
In stark contrast, the only acquisitions the Philippine Navy has made of late are several outmoded Hamilton class cutters which reportedly will be purchased out of the royalty earnings from the Malampaya natural gas production. Yet, these potentially include submarines that can’t resurface after submerging.
Philippine defense policy has always been skewed by a neocolonial, pro-oligarchy orientation. It is anti-insurgency insofar as only protecting the economic holdings of the ruling elite against a rebellious, impoverished people, while neglecting our naval and coastal defenses.
The then Armed Forces of the Philippines was still at its peak under Marcos and was to have been the perfect model for sustaining and expanding our country’s defense capabilities. But instead of building on it, the regimes that followed allowed it to rot. The arms manufacturing that was started during Marcos’ time went to seed while the ship-building facilities, which could have built most of the new naval assets the country needed, were allowed to rust into oblivion.
Our nation’s resource base eroded with the collapse of the “11 Industrial Projects” as well as the loss of Sabah (revenues upon which Malaysia built its wealth and defense capabilities). It will take a new leadership of the patriotic and nationalist kind let the Philippines outgrow its status as the Junrey Balawing of the region.
Should we continue to remain the air-weight of Asia, like Junrey Balawing at five kilos, deserving of a place only in a freaks’ gallery? Are we man or mouse? Are we sheepish slaves or free men?
Any muscle building begins first in the mind and the will. Muscles are built by nutritious food and strength training; hence, the need for national food self-sufficiency and accessibility, to heave against the proverbial Sisyphus-ian rock over the mountain. The will is strengthened by self-consciousness; hence, the need to restore our historical and nationalist education and cultural awareness. The sinews of a national economy are made up of iron and steel, and its blood, the energy industry; hence, our “nation-al” economic and industrial development.
At the top of all this is the set of goals in our consciousness, the ideology that unites all of the energies of our people. While the leadership that can carry this through is not in a position to take charge yet, we must therefore prepare the people’s consciousness for it today.
(Tune in to Radyo OpinYon, Monday to Friday, 5 to 6 p.m., and Sulo ng Pilipino, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, 6 to 7 p.m. on 1098AM; Talk News TV with HTL, Tuesday, 8 to 9 p.m., with replay at 11 p.m., on GNN, Destiny Cable Channel 8, on “GSIS Union Victory vs Winton’s Outrages”; visit http://newkatipunero.blogspot.com and http://hermantiulaurel.blogspot.com for our articles plus TV and radio archives)
(Reprinted with permission from Mr. Herman Tiu-Laurel)
Source: The Daily Tribune