Hontiveros to DND: Consider restructuring AFP by beefing up maritime forces

Published June 8, 2021, 9:59 AM

by Hannah Torregoza 

The Department of National Defense (DND) should explore the feasibility of restructuring the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) with additional forces to boost the country’s maritime defense.

Senator Risa Hontiveros said this proposal may be worth considering in light of China’s continuous presence in the West Philippine Sea.

“Our armed forces primarily consist of land forces. While we still do have internal security threats on land, I think there is no harm in studying how we can better equip our maritime forces, especially since China is not leaving our waters,” Hontiveros said in a statement.

“Lumalaki at dumadami ang banta na dala ng Tsina sa ating mga karagatan, kaya’t dapat maging handa tayo sa magiging implikasyon nito sa ating kinabukasan (China’s presence in our seas is becoming bigger and becoming a very serious threat, that’s why we need to be ready to face its implications to our future),” the senator added.

Hontiveros made the call in response to Dr. Clarita Carlos, University of the Philippines (UP) professor and former National Defense College of the Philippines president who noted that the country’s current AFP is configured for a continental country rather than an archipelagic one.

Carlos has proposed to alter the structure of the AFP to serve the country’s national interests in the maritime domain.

Currently, the AFP’s composition, according to Carlos is 71 percent Army, 18 percent Navy, of which nearly half are Marines, and 11 percent Air Force.

The senator pointed out the Philippines cannot afford to back down against China’s repeated incursions in the West Philippine Sea, noting that the government has repeatedly filed diplomatic protests but to no avail.

“Our Philippine Marine Corps is getting a meager allocation for its equipment. A stronger maritime defense force sends China a clear message we will not back down,” the senator pointed out.

Hontiveros recalled that when around 220 Chinese vessels were seen in Julian Felipe Reef in March, Defense chief Delfin Lorenzana vowed to increase vessels of the Philippine Navy and the Philippine Coast Guard in the WPS.

The lawmaker said she fully supports Lorenzana’s call, adding that she hopes the defense chief can now consider the proposal highlighting the DND’s need for a long term strategic development plan that would squarely address the country’s woes with China.

“China is a massive threat to our country. Let’s not deny that. Our national security, national interest, and national dignity are all at stake,” she stressed.

“Ngayong linggo na ipinagdiriwang natin ang Araw ng Kalayaan ng Pilipinas, sana ang sakripisyo at giting ng ating mga ninuno ay magbigay inspirasyon sa ating lahat, opisyal man o mamamayan, para tunay na ipaglaban ang Pilipinas, (As we celebrate Philippine Independence Day, may we be inspired by the sacrifices of our ancestors, whether officials or ordinary citizens to fully fight for the Philippines),” Hontiveros emphasized.