Previously: Rajah Humabon
In the early 1980's, there used to be seven frigates sailing the waters around the Philippines. The frigates - with its sheer size, speed and firepower - were the only warships capable of performing effective deterrence against foreign navies. At that time, the country was said to have the most number of military assets in the region. However, years of neglect and lack of support from the Philippine government lead to the retirement and scrapping of these navy vessels. When President Pnoy stepped into office, only the Rajah Humabon patrolled the waters west of Manila.
The standing military doctrine at that time was hastily revised when the Chinese began an aggressive campaign to claim the entire South China Sea. It includes Manila's exclusive economic zone. It all stared when the People's Liberation Army (PLAN) announced that it would be sending its largest coastal patrol ship for a "goodwill visit" to Singapore. What made Malacanang very nervous was the idea that the vessel will pass through waters being contested by rival nations. The Rajah Humabon was deployed in the area, but not even the country's largest warship could turn away a civilian Chinese vessel from making a not-so-subtle aggressive posturing.
Then came the urgent decision to procure excess military assets from the United States. First was the Hamilton Class Gregorio Del Pilar and then sailed the Ramon Alcaraz the past week. While these high-endurance cutters are no match for Chinese destroyers, their presence alone lifts the morale of civilians already tired of being bullied by foreign patrol boats claiming ownership over fishing grounds that have been harvested by locals for generations.
Just barely three years ago, I have no idea that the government can bring its act together and afford an ambitious rearmament plan. What is amazing is that it has the full support of the citizenry. Even the media hailed such sea changes as necessary in protecting our sovereignty. Assured that the bidding and awarding of contracts weren't tainted by corruption, nobody thought an ideal was possible:
That nationhood can be realized with a trusted leader.
More warships are said to be procured, with Japan supplying coastal patrol boats to beef up our security. While these acquisitions doesn't mean the country has embraced a more aggressive military policy, a credible armed force at a time when the country is hailed as the region's economic miracle creates not only an impression of internal order.
The idea that we are rebuilding the tattered armada, with the intention of guarding the country's economic interests (including those of the small fisher folk) thrust this nationhood project right at the heart of every patriot.
It awakens the pride within.