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he current shutdown of the United States government has highlighted a potentially perilous situation that could confront the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in the future. For over six decades a mutual defense treaty has existed between the two nations. With America’s military might, head and shoulders above everyone else’s, the Philippines never really felt the need to develop a full-fledged defense apparatus. The AFP instead has always banked on the notion that no potential adversary would mess with it because to do so meant messing with the United States.
But despite the fact that Article II of the treaty clearly states that “the Parties separately and jointly by self-help and mutual aid will maintain and develop their individual and collective capacity to resist armed attack” the Philippine military has never been fully able to stand on its own. Incompetent bureaucrats and ethically-challenged personnel have hobbled the institution since the Ferdinand Marcos Administration. And if that wasn’t enough, brigands and bandits like the New People’s Army (NPA), the Moro national Liberation Front (MNLF), and the Abu Sayyaf continue to strike at the AFP, and deplete it’s already stretched resources.
Faced with today’s reality, of an increasingly powerful China and a United States hobbled by partisan infighting that can shut down its government at the drop of a hat, the Philippines must begin to modernize and professionalize its military or risk finding itself trampled by Chinese hegemony. The need to immediately put in place a credible defense cannot be over-emphasized. The only thing that will keep China from annexing yet another Philippine reef or shoal is their realization that they will end up paying too high a price for it.
But creating a credible deterrent will take more than buying hand-me-down warships or trainer aircraft. The entire Filipino culture must change. We must transform ourselves into a race of achievers—become leaders not followers; trust in science not superstition; believe in hard work instead of lazy get-rich-quick schemes. Filipinos must become more like the Spartans of ancient Greece, or the Israelis of today—both small states with exceptionally powerful armies. At the same time, Malacańang must launch a global public relations offensive to let the world know what the Chinese are doing—using their newly acquired military might to bully and intimidate their neighbors into relinquishing resource-rich possessions all over the South China Sea.
China’s leaders know they must continue exporting products to the rest of the world to feed their gargantuan economy. Any negative publicity or the risk of boycotts from the global community is untenable to them. So Filipinos need to use every tool at their disposal. President Benigno Aquino III must overcome his typically Pinoy timidity and speak before the United Nations General Assembly to let the world know what China is doing to the Philippines.
Filipinos must start to see themselves as a vital and integral part of the world community, not as a country solely dependent on the foreign aid of other countries. Filipinos need to finally stand tall on the global stage. They need to rely on no other country but their own to defend themselves. If Filipinos cannot do these things, then they cannot expect to remain an independent nation for long. Published 10/6/2013