Navy’s plan to build maritime militia stalled by budget constraints

Published October 24, 2020, 3:27 PM

by Martin Sadongdong

It might take a while before the Philippine Navy (PN) can realize its plan of building a maritime militia in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) to match China’s strength.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said President Duterte initially opposed the idea of deploying force multipliers in the disputed waters since the military has a very limited budget.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana (NTF Against COVID-19 / MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

“Sabi ni Presidente, mukhang hindi natin kaya iyan. Huwag na muna natin gawin dahil wala pa tayong resources (The President said that we are not yet ready to do it. He said we should postpone it since we have no budget to sustain it),” he told reporters.

Vice Admiral Giovanni Carlo Bacordo, PN Flag Officer in Command, needs to consider allotting a hefty budget to buy more boats with steel hull so the militia can patrol the vast seas with ease, compared to the ordinary boats used by fishermen with wooden hulls, Lorenzana said.

“Admiral Bacordo was also surprised about the news that there was already a budget, there’s none yet. They are still studying it. First, there’s no money. Second, we don’t know… the money is supposed to procure bigger ships with steel hull. You cannot use a wooden boat in your militia. They will be destroyed easily,” the Defense chief explained in Pilipino.

Earlier this week, Bacordo said the Navy announced plans to recruit and arm hundreds of fishermen who will compose the first batch of the military’s maritime CAFGU Active Auxiliaries (CAAs) in the West Philippine Sea.

“We intend to have two companies per naval forces so that’s about 120 maritime CAAs per naval forces,” Bacordo had said in a virtual briefing.

The maritime militia in the WPS will be a steady force since the Navy and the Philippine Coast Guard do not usually stay for long in one area when they are conducting patrol, the Navy chief noted.

“It is just a stop gap measure to fill where we are not… where the Navy and Coast Guard are not present,” he said.

Lorenzana said there is a strong call for the establishment of a maritime militia in the West Philippine Sea to strengthen the government’s presence in the tension-filled waters.

“Some people are advocating that [building maritime militia] because the other side kuno (allegedly), there are militia. Eh hindi naman inaamin ng China, sabi nila wala silang militia, those are fishermen (China is not admitting it, they said they have no militia, those are fishermen),” he said.

“Let us take the word as it is in the face value, but we [will] also verify kung totoo talaga sinasabi nila (if what they are saying is true),” he added.

For now, Lorenzana said the plan to build a competitive maritime militia in the West Philippine Sea remains will have to be developed so it can be sustained for a long time.