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Hawkish?

No country should be so weak as to be at the mercy of emerging regional threats.

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Better relations between the Philippines and the United States seem to be in the horizon with full-blown Balikatan military exercises between the two countries now a looming possibility.

Just this week, the Philippines received from its traditional ally, the US, four ScanEagle drone systems, valued at about P200 million.

The US Embassy said the drones would “provide additional capabilities in unmanned intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance” not only for counterterrorism efforts, but in conducting search and rescue during calamities.

Battlefields are being reshaped by new technologies, and having eyes in the sky, with real-time footage, through these drones can certainly tip the balance in any encounter.

As a commercial drone enthusiast, it’s a marvel for me what these military drones can do in terms of flying time and distance that may be covered in one sortie.

ScanEagle’s (unmanned aerial vehicle) UAV units are, thusly, welcome additions to the arsenal of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), now also beefed up with the arrival of the latest batch of Black Hawk helicopters.

Delivery of the Black Hawks has also allowed the country to decommission refurbished (okay, upgraded) Huey choppers, the originals of which dated back to the Vietnam War.

These UAV units are not new toys for drone operators in our military, as the Navy already received these same ScanEagle in November and before that, the Air Force has been operating such a system.

In a statement, the US Embassy said the Philippines has been the “largest recipient of US military assistance in the Indo-Pacific region,” with about P50 billion worth of planes, ships, armored vehicles, small arms and other military equipment delivered to our shores since 2015.

The warming relations between Manila and Washington may be seen by some as the Philippines pivoting back to its traditional ally, with whom it fought side by side with during World War 2 and the Korean War.

Maybe so, although the Philippines, as in its procurement of the vaccines against Covid-19, has kept its market options open in terms of military material procurement like those frigates sourced from South Korea’s Hyundai Heavy Industries.

Also this week, the BRP Jose Rizal, bought in 2019, and the BRP Antonio Luna, delivered this year, were outfitted with surface-to-air missiles, thereby cementing the frigates’ status as the Navy’s most modern warships.

The missiles would allow the frigates to eliminate threats coming from the sky, like those from hostile fighter jets or armed drones. Next on the Navy’s shopping list should be long-range surface-to-surface missiles for the BRP Rizal and BRP Luna.

Is the country being hawkish with the procurement of these military hardware? There would be some who would say the money is better spent to buy more vaccines, to feed the poor and boost the economy.

And they may be right except that no country should be so weak as to be at the mercy of emerging regional threats.

A military buildup, through careful short-term and long-term programmed spending, should be anchored on presenting a credible response by the country against any aggression.

***

We received a rejoinder from the office of Senator Panfilo Lacson re our previous piece entitled “Jailor,” which raised the question if, as the senator said, only the courts can send people to jail, why is it then that Congress has been routinely incarcerating people for contempt?

The issue is now before the Supreme Court, but on the matter of the perception that many lawmakers are using congressional investigations for media mileage, Senator Lacson’s media relations officer said his record speaks for itself.

That Lacson has involved himself in many of these investigations to be able to craft laws or in furtherance of the legislative branch’s oversight functions.

We’ll leave it at that.

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