By Mario Casayuran
Senator Richard J. Gordon pressed on Tuesday for substantive increases in the budget of Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) because having a weak defense capacity to defend itself against a militarily strong neighbor cannot continue.
‘’Unless we show readiness to help ourselves by investing in building up a credible defense capability, nobody will help the Philippines in connection with the South China Sea (SCS) dispute,’’ Gordon said.
Although China lost to Philippines in their territorial dispute at the SCS based on a 2016 ruling of the United Nations Arbitration Court, China has recently told the world that it would not be surrendering or ceding an inch of its territory to any country.
Political enemies of President Duterte have criticized the Chief Executive for cozying up to China instead of pressing its territorial victory via the UN ruling.
After the Department of Education that has the annual lion’s share in the national budget, the AFP/Department of National Defense (DND is in the fifth rung with a 2018 budget of PP149.7 billion.
Of this, the share of the Philippine Army (PA) is 0P64 billion, the Philippine Navy (PN) has P21.3 billion and Philippine Air Force (PAF) with P19.8 billion.
There is an expected increase in the annual defense budget when Malacanang submits the proposed 2019 national budget after the President has delivered his State of the Nations Address (SONA) on July 23.
Gordon, chairman of the Senate Blue Ribbon committee, said it is a folly for the Philippines to remain weak, dependent and reliant.
‘’To continue to undermine our defense capacity is an absolute folly and makes allies and ill-minded countries to look at us with derision. It makes us lose our dignity and self-respect. Let’s be friends with our neighbors, build up our alliances in Asia, but build up a credible defense capability,’’ he said.
‘’No other country will help us if they see we are not serious about helping ourselves with a reliable defense in air, and naval assets,” he added.
Gordon stressed that by investing in strengthening the military, the government is fulfilling the Constitutional provision which mandates that the AFP is the protector of the people and its goal is to secure the sovereignty of the state and the integrity of the national territory.
“We cannot continue to afford making a mockery of our Constitution’s claim that the AFP is the protector of the people and its goal is to secure the sovereignty of the state and the integrity of the national territory,’’ he said.
Goron emphasized that he is not saying that the country goes to war.
‘’Far from it! But it is a conditio sine qua non for every state to have a capable defense force,” Gordon said.
“But we can make all our allies near and far realize that by investing our defense forces with the modicum of credible equipage we are prepared to fulfill the Constitution’s mandate. We must be prepared to do everything and more for the sake of national security. We must do this, ourselves,’’ he stressed.
‘’By doing so, the whole world will respect us and prospective supporters will support us because we are showing our commitment to help ourselves,’’ he added.
Gordon pointed out that other countries – Singapore, Israel, Taiwan, South Korea, among many others- built up their defense forces and capabilities early in their development.
China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei are claiming, in whole or in part, groups of islands in the South China Sea, which include the Paracels and the Spratlys.
Aside from the island chains which may have reserves of natural resources around them, there are dozens of rocky outcrops, atolls, sandbanks and reefs, such as the Scarborough Shoal. The sea is also a major shipping route and home to fishing grounds that supply the livelihoods of people across the region.
Tags: Armed Forces of the Philippines, China, credible defense, credible defense capability, defense force, defense forces, national budget, national territory, Philippine Air Force, Philippines, South China Sea, United Nations Arbitration Court