Marcos declares AFP external defense shift

PHOTOGRAPH BY YUMMIE DINGDING FOR THE DAILY TRIBUNE @tribunephl_yumi | President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. leads the commissioning of the two FAIC-M Shaldag Mark V missile-capable patrol gunboats from Israel during the celebration of the Philippine Navy’s 125th anniversary at its headquarters along Roxas Boulevard, Manila. The gunboats are named after two Filipino Marines who both died in the line of duty – BRP Gener Tinangag (PG903) and BRP Domingo Deluana (PG905).

President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. on Friday declared the recalibration of the focus to external security defense as he pressed full support to the modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Speaking at the 125th Anniversary celebration of the Philippine Navy in its Manila headquarters, Marcos feted the Navy personnel who have exemplarily fulfilled their mandates and duties to defending and securing the Philippine archipelago “from Batanes and the Kalayaan islands, the Philippine Rise, to the West Philippine Sea.”

“Considering the changing tides of our national security and the significant gains that we have made in terms of internal security, our armed forces is working to recalibrate its focus more towards the external defense of our borders,” Marcos said in his speech.

He added: “In this crucial transition, full support for the Armed Forces must be guaranteed, especially for the Philippine Navy’s priority goals of enhancing its intelligence, defense, and coordinative capabilities.”

During the ceremony, the Philippine Navy commissioned two of its “acero-class vessels” namely Patrol Gunboat 903 and Patrol Gunboat 905, which will respectively be deployed in Visayas and Mindanao.

Addressing gaps

These vessels will mainly address gaps in operational support against transnational crimes and protect the country’s territorial integrity and maritime interests.

“With the commissioning of the two vessels today, we look further forward to the completion of the AFP Modernization Program, particularly its Horizon 3, which is significantly devoted to the naval aspect of our military operations,” he said.

Philippine Navy Chief, Vice Adm. Toribio Adaci Jr., said the commissioning of these vessels symbolizes the “promising future” of the country’s maritime defense and military efforts toward enhanced capabilities, increased resilience, and stronger presence in the Philippine maritime domain.

“I extend our gratitude to the national leadership for making this possible and for the continued support to our Navy as we realize our vision of becoming a modern and multi-capable naval force,” Adaci said.

Marcos on Friday confirmed that there is a plan to acquire submarines for the Philippines, showcasing the government’s commitment to bolstering the country’s naval capabilities.

When asked about the plan to acquire a submarine, President Marcos responded affirmatively, saying “Right now, we are in the middle of developing mostly our anti-submarine capabilities.”

So ‘yun ang uunahin natin (we will prioritize that) and then maybe, hopefully, when the time comes and the conditions are agreeable then we might be able to acquire those submarines.”

Highlighting the importance of prioritizing the enhancement of existing defenses against submarine threats, he outlined the government’s current focus.

Submarine acquisition

Various countries have presented offers to the Philippines regarding the submarine acquisition. President Marcos disclosed that these offers extend beyond purchasing submarines, with some countries expressing interest in constructing the submarines locally.

This prospect holds significant advantages for the Philippines, as President Marcos said, “If they are built here and we can actually build submarines here and provide those submarines to other countries, then that’s another source of jobs and income and increased capability for our Navy.”

In May 1898, the Philippine Navy was formally established following the hoisting of the Philippine flag in one of the Filipino revolutionary navy vessels during the revolt against the Spanish colonizers.

The “Off-Shore Patrol” which was previously a naval component of the Philippine Army was expanded and became a major service of the AFP. It was named the “Philippine Navy” with expanded objectives and resources in 1951.

The Philippine Navy, Adaci said, has become instrumental in enhancing maritime security, promoting humanitarian assistance and disaster response efforts, and fostering international cooperation since then.

“Today, we commemorate the legacy of those who came before us, the pioneers who laid the foundation of our Navy, and the heroes who selflessly served our nation. Their sacrifices and contributions have shaped the Philippine Navy into a resilient force, one that stands ready to defend our nation’s territorial integrity and uphold regional peace and stability,” Adaci said.

The Philippine Navy has currently seven operational commands namely Naval Forces Northern Luzon, Southern Luzon, Central, West, Western Mindanao, Eastern Mindanao and Fleet-Marine Ready Force, and 14 support and command units.

The country’s naval force has a total strength of 26,830 officers, enlisted personnel, and candidate soldiers, supported by 1,378 civilian employees, as of 15 May.

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