The navy charts a new course
By James Mananghaya
Sunday, May 20, 2007
“The Philippines is a maritime country. The ships are what make us a Navy. Without the ships there is no navy. It is therefore very clear that our top priority should be to be able to deploy our ships to guard our waters,” Vice Admiral Rogelio Calunsag, the Navy’s 29th flag officer in command, said when he assumed the Navy’s top post last December.
Despite being inadequately equipped, the Philippine Navy has been an example of the Filipino’s ingenuity and resilience, being able to carry out its missions with limited resources, which it hopes to address in the coming years by enhancing the operational readiness of their ships and improving the skills of sailors.
Presently, the 20,000-strong Navy, including the elite Marines, is carrying out various missions, combat and otherwise, using 54 operational vessels, five aircraft, and 53 armored fighting vehicles, mostly refurbished.
But what keeps the organization going is the high morale and motivation of its men and women, who remain steadfast in their sworn duty to protect the country at all cost.
When the Armed Forces of the Philippines launched a massive campaign last year against al-Qaeda-linked militants in the South, the Navy played a vital role of providing naval blockades within the island province of Sulu to prevent the escape of terrorists, particularly the Abu Sayyaf and their Jemaah Islamiyah cohorts.
The Navy scored a major victory in this campaign when elements of the Marine Force Recon Class 12, led by the unassuming and humble 2Lt. Romulo Dimayuga, neutralized Abu Sayyaf chieftain Khadaffy Janjalani, who carries a $5-million bounty on his head, in a fierce and bloody encounter in Barangay Tugas, Patikul, Sulu.
The young officer and some of his men were wounded in that pre-dawn clash.
Six marines were also slain in a close-quarter battle with Janjalani’s followers, their ultimate sacrifice considered the country’s contribution to the global campaign against terror.
The Navy’s elite Special Operations Group, which is equivalent to the US Navy Seals, together with Marines and Army Scout Rangers, killed Abu Hubaida and Jundam Jumalul alias “Black Killer”, two notorious Abu Sayyaf leaders, and five of their cohorts, in a high seas clash off Tawi-Tawi
This major feat was attributed to the revival of the Fleet-Marine Team that harnessed the capability of the Fleet and the Marines into one cohesive and potent naval force. The complimentary set-up provides needed support to sustain naval operations.
Only last month, Marines took over the camp of Habier Malik, a commander of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in the village of Bitan-ag, Panamao town in Sulu after the rebel group launched mortar attacks that killed a child.
With Oplan Domino 2 replacing Oplan Ultimatum, the navy vows to continue the mission, until the terrorist leaders and their cohorts are captured or neutralized.
Aside from addressing terrorism in the Southern part of the country, the Navy has also contributed to the neutralization of some Communist New People’s Army leaders, as part of Oplan Bantay Laya, which is the government’s internal security master plan.Sail Plan 2030
By 2030, the navy will modernize into a more capable organization with the latest in military hardware to equip its units with the right tools for the job.
One of the first the projects undertaken under the capability upgrade program was the transfer of two Patrol Killer Medium (PKM) Gunboats, identified as PKMs 223 and 232, from the Republic of Korea (ROK).
Another project being developed and enhanced is Project Phalanx, a mobile remote operated military hardware designed for close quarter battle in urban settings. The Command also supported the repair and acquisition of various weapons and ammunitions for its Navy and Marine units.
The Navy also distributed satellite phones, radio and TV sets and programming kits to units assigned in remote areas which will significantly support the conduct of various operations. Three Jacinto-class patrol vessels are also undergoing rehabilitation at a facility in Iloilo.
Equally or even more important than improving military hardware is improving the living conditions of the troops. In this regard, Calunsag’s predecessor, retired Vice Adm. Mateo Mayuga initiated the recovery of some 200 quarters occupied by overstaying retired military officers at Fort Bonifacio.
Calunsag has tasked the commanders of all Naval forces and support units all over the country to address the improvement of living conditions, working environment and other administrative requirements of fleet-marine.
Aside from dealing with terrorists and Communist rebels, the Navy has taken on the responsibility of keeping the seas safe for all seafarers by conducting operations against pirates. It also complements law enforcement agencies in implementing maritime laws and helps in the campaign against all forms of smuggling, illegal logging and poaching in protected marine reserves such as the Tubattaha Reef in Palawan.
The navy has also provided assistance to victims of various calamities that hit the country recently by transporting much-needed relief goods, providing vehicles for evacuation and utilizing their engineering units for rehabilitation of affected areas. Disaster response units of the Navy are equipped with amphibious vehicles, pump boats, heavy equipment, armored vehicles, fire trucks and ambulances.
These disasters, including other crisis situations such as the Lebanon conflict and Malaysia’s crackdown on illegal migrants, gave birth to the idea of acquiring a multi-purpose vessel which would be used for mass evacuation, as well as command and control for government agencies involved in such kinds of operations.
Navy spokesman Commander Giovanni Carlo Bacordo told STARweek that the MPV could be used as a floating government center which would immediately be dispatched in times of disaster or other crisis situations that require immediate action.
“It would be a vessel where representatives of government agencies involved in disasters would be on board. Our personnel would man the ship,” he said.
“The main target should be to save lives, provide immediate aid to a distressed population, accommodate victims on board if needed, and clear the way for fresh assistance and support, thus the platform should be capable of embarking food provisions, medical supplies, clothing and a large quantity of extra equipment for clearing operations,” Bacordo said. The instant platform of the vessel may also be reconfigured as a hospital ship or a floating government center.
“It should be able to evacuate casualties and provide medical support and emergency treatment for serious injuries as well,” he said.
Aside from this, it could also be used to evacuate Filipinos if they get caught in the middle of a conflict in”other countries, such as what happened in Lebanon, where the only way out is through the sea.
“The Lebanon crisis taught us the need to conquer the tyranny of distance. Just as in the aftermath of disasters in our archipelago when airstrips are obstructed, roads or railways are blocked, ports are damaged or there are no safe harbors, the only way out of Lebanon was through the sea,” Bacordo said.
Mayuga was the one who oversaw the development and operationalization of Coast Watch South (CWS) aimed at addressing current and emerging maritime security threats, especially in the country’s southern territory.
The CWS is a framework for an inter-agency surveillance and response mechanism for addressing transnational crimes, maritime terrorism, and environmental concerns in the Sulu and Celebes seas. The CWS also offers a framework for developing international cooperation by strengthening established bilateral and regional agreements.
Primarily designed as a monitoring, control, and surveillance system, the CWS comprises the Navy’s network of coast watch stations scattered all over the country, national inter-agency maritime patrol operations, and existing bilateral arrangements with Indonesia and Malaysia.
The Philippine Navy is also cooperating with foreign navies in patrolling common borders and in keeping track of transnational maritime threats for a secure maritime environment. Relations with foreign navies are constantly being strengthened by the conduct of joint naval exercises with allies, with the intention of working together to forge stronger ties against common enemies.http://www.philstar.com/index.php?p=49&type=2&sec=52&aid=3214
Also in the report (in the magazine version) was a picture of a gunboat numbered 351, does anyone knows what is the class of this ship, my guess is a Swift Mk.2, but i'm not sure though, i'll try to scan the whole mag (it wont fit in the scanner ^_^), when i have some more spare time to do so.