The Philippines’ Great National Security Challenge (and it’s NOT China)
The Philippines’ weak defense capabilities were made painfully evident during its maritime dispute with China in the South China Sea earlier this year.
Even President Benigno Aquino III conceded the inferiority of the country’s military force in his state of the nation address last July. “Some have described our Air Force as all air and no force. Lacking the proper equipment, our troops remain vulnerable even as they are expected to be put in harm’s way. We cannot allow things to remain this way,” Aquino said.
Aquino went on to promise to upgrade the country’s defense capabilities in order to ensure the Philippines’ security and sovereignty. Spefically, he announced that the 21 UH-1H helicopters, 4 combat utility helicopters, rifles, mortars, mobile diagnostic laboratories, and station bullet assemblies purchased by his government will be delivered this year. He added that 10 attack helicopters, 2 naval helicopters, 2 light aircraft, one frigate, and air force protection equipment will arrive sometime next year. This is in addition to the old Coast Guard Cutter that the Philippines bought from the United States last year.
Many foreign military analysts support a stronger and more modern Filipino military given the need to balance China’s growing military presence in the Asia-Pacific.
Filipinos are naturally supportive of the plan to improve their country’s security capabilities. At the same time, people are demanding accountability for the billions of pesos the government has already used as part of its two decade-long project to modernize the military that began in the early 1990’s. They point out that funds to buy new weapons have always been available but a huge amount of these precious taxpayer dollars have been wasted on official corruption. They are worried that current public support to strengthen the country’s armed forces will merely serve to enhance the personal wealth of corrupt generals and politicians.
Article written by Mong Palatino, courtesy of The Diplomat.