Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Monday said the Armed Forces of the Philippines would deploy at least three Navy vessels and more personnel from all branches of the military if the AFP would again be invited to participate in the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) Exercise.
“This is a very good exposure for our defense people, not only the Navy and Marines, but maybe we could also send some more power, Army Special Forces to participate and also some of our SPOW (Special Operations Wing) next time around and maybe next time around we can also send more ships, maybe three ships altogether, next year if we will be invited,” Lorenzana said as he welcomes the return of the Philippine contingent from RIMPAC 2018.
The Navy sent a 700-man task force and two naval vessels—the BRP Davao del Sur (LD602) and BRP Andres Bonifacio (FF17)—to participate in the international maritime warfare exercise in June.
Lorenzana said this was the first time the Philippines was invited for RIMPAC. He said this signals a new era in the country’s maritime diplomacy amid the face of increasing security challenges worldwide.
“Ang Philippine Navy’s presence in exercises like the RIMPAC signifies a new era of maritime operational engagement, cooperation and inter-operability with other navies to tackle areas of common concern. Indeed, as we face growing maritime security challenges around the world, there is a need for navies to work together to increase familiarity and exchange best practices,” he said.
The Philippines already has an ongoing trilateral agreement with Indonesia and Malaysia for the conduct of military exercises, but Lorenzana said the RIMPAC experience further enhances the country’s capability in terms of maritime security.
“By participating in joint multi-lateral maritime exercises, our sailors and Marines are exposed to new ideas and ways of handling things which can be used to enhance our own systems and doctrines. It’s also a good chance for our personnel to experience planning and execution of combined naval operations as well as establish the Navy’s capacity for prolonged operations over seas,” he said.
Lorenzana admitted the Navy vessels had been neglected in previous procurement of military equipment, which he vowed to change as the AFP embarked on an ambitious five-year modernization program.
He said this included the purchase of subsurface and aerial assets.
The DND chief said the Navy would receive the largest funding for the purchase of military equipment, followed by the Air Force and the Army.
Lorenzana particularly mentioned the planned procurement of submarines, saying this boosts the bid of the Philippines in becoming a vital player in securing the Asia Pacific region.
“Our way forward is therefore clear, we will continue to work hard to acquire more assets to make the Navy vessels stronger and more credible, something that our maritime nation can be proud of. There are still some gaps in our capabilities in the Navy that we will fill up,” Lorenzana said.
“However, we still have a lot of work to do in terms of acquiring additional subsurface and aerial assets. We likewise dream of acquiring our first subsurface vessels under the next horizon of the AFP Modernization Program. We must ensure that we have the persons and facilities to operate and maintain these assets,” he added. —Joseph Tristan Roxas/NB, GMA News