By Martin Sadongdong
Rear Admiral Giovanni Carlo Bacordo, newly installed flag officer in command of the Philippine Navy (PN), has vowed to implement three “priority” programs to ensure that the new assets that they are going to acquire will “remain…capable through time.”
Bacordo, who formally assumed command of the 25,000-strong Navy on Monday afternoon, said they are expecting the arrival of two missile-capable frigates — the BRP Jose Rizal and BRP Antonio Luna — by April and September this year, eight fast attack interdiction craft missiles, two landing docks, six offshore patrol vessels (OPVs), and two missile corvettes that would complement BRP Conrado Yap (PS-39).
For the Marines, among the expected arrivals are tactical combat vehicles and shore-based missile systems.
All assets are part of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ “Horizon” modernization program.
Despite the acquisitions, Bacordo said it is not guaranteed that the brand-new defense platforms will be in fighting status in five to 10 years.
Bacordo said among his priority programs is the sustainment suite for new platforms, weapons, and sensors of the fleet and marines.
To implement this, Bacordo said he aims to capacitate the naval sea systems command, the unit in-charge of the maintenance and repair of weapons, communications and electronic (WCE) systems and hull, and machinery and electrical (HME) systems.
He also wants to implement the inclusion of the materiel and facility requirements in every modernization package so that if the navy acquires ships, there are programs for drydocks that can accommodate them.
Bacordo cited current problems where the port facilities of all naval bases and stations in the country “are not capable of accommodating strategic vessels” such as the Del Pilar class vessels, two landing docks, and the BRP Conrado Yap.
“These vessels, instead, make the commercial ports as its home base. Where will our future frigates, landing docks, corvettes and OPVs be home-ported now?” he asked.
The second item among Bacordo’s priority programs is the implementation of specialization of officers and enlisted personnel skills.
Bacordo said since there is a “present mindset” among officers who have completed their command of navy vessels and marine battalions that they can advance to flag ranks, the effect is that everybody wants to command ships and battalions.
“We have never developed a high proficiency in the support to warfare and staff specializations like personnel, plans, logistics, finance, cyber warfare, education, and training,” he said.
To address this, he said there will be “strict” observation of field specializations and selective recruitment where navy applicants who are graduates in engineering, electronics, and computer-related courses will be prioritized.
The last item among Bacordo’s priority programs is the modernization of the mindset of the 25,000-strong sailors and marines all over the country.
“It is easier to modernize the navy in terms of modern platforms with modern weapons and sensors. But the most challenging is to modernize the mindset of the sailors and marines after decades of exposure to a legacy capability,” he said.
He said he aims to retire all the “legacy” ships or World War II-era battle ships in the current fleet by the first quarter of 2021. He added that so long as there are legacy ships in the inventory, it would be difficult to re-program the mindset of the sailors and marines to a modern navy.
He also wants to modernize the base facilities of the navy.
“It is difficult to adopt a modern mindset when only our ships, tanks, and aircrafts are modern. When at the end of the day, when our personnel get to be assigned shore establishments, it is the old systems, old routines that is practiced ashore,” Bacordo said.
Bacordo said when all his priority programs are implemented, all sailors and marines “will be more effective and efficient in the performance of internal security operations, territorial defense security operations, and humanitarian and disaster response operations.”
Read more: PH Navy needs to modernize – Bacordo