The importance of defending and developing our archipelago nation

An island nation in order to defend itself must have mastery over its seas. This is evident in the story of the English people. It is said that a whole forest disappeared when Henry VIII built his war fleet — lumber was used to build the ships and fire the smiths that produced the cannons. Even more ancient in the Greek City-States a wooden wall of ships was crucial in the defeat of the Persians. Of course the natural defenses of an island will protect its inhabitants — like when the Spanish Armada of Philip went down during a storm or when the Mongolian fleet suffered the same fate from a typhoon off the coast of Japan — but with the advent of technology we will have to invest and develop their naval forces. The present situation in our seas does not only make this point evident as a pimple on a nose but should be taken as an opportunity and a need to develop our naval defense. What is the Philippine Archipelago but an archipelago nation ?

A view of our history will show the importance of naval forces in protecting and defending our archipelago. The Spanish won against the Dutch to protect our archipelago and the Spanish lost our archipelago after another battle much much later with the Americans in Manila Bay. A number of historians would say though that this was more of a mock battle than anything else. — An old dilapidated Spanish fleet against Dewey’s fleet made steel and iron. This naval battle was one of those battles that led to the United States from a nation of colonies that banded together for independence into a colonial master in Asia. Another naval battle around this time thwarted the rise of a European colonial power in Asia and instead led to rise of anAsia nation. The battle was over Port Arthur and the protagonists were the Russian Empire of the Czars versus the Japanese Empire.

One of the lessons the American learned when they began to colonize the Philippines was to rely heavily on naval assets. Military pacification of the Visayas Islands was done with the combined use of naval and land forces. Ships and gun boats were used for the followingL (i) Delivery of supplies and ferrying of trips; (ii) As offensive units that went into inland waters to reinforce the attacks of the regular infantry and marine forces — equipped with gatling guns and cannons; And (iii) Running a naval blockade around the island effectively placing for example Samar into a defacto siege.Corregidor — like Singapore’s Sentosa — was designed to protect Manila and Singapore effectively from an attack from the sea. Unfortunately, technology and military strategy made these particular strategies futile. This though does not diminish the importance of developing and maintaining naval power — only a change in naval strategy is needed.

But we have not yet started to develop a credible naval self-defence strategy. In a sense our over defences on the Americans have inhibited us from building our naval forces a. The latest change in our foreign policy and situation in our seas provide a reason and opportunity to develop our naval forces.

The naval forces that is being discussed here is not limited to military and self-defence forces but an an archipelago nation must be able to develop and responsibly manage its aquatic resources…

First, There is the development or our commercial ships and our commercial shipping lanes. The Arroyo administration started it right with the roll on and roll out or RORO network across the archipelago. This was stunted during her immediate predecessor’s term. This would not only development of the nautical highway but also the development of its river and sea ports. It would also include the strict implementation of rules that would guarantee the safety of passengers and goods. The Philippines has witnessed a number of maritime and riverine disasters, Only the development of the coast guard and port authorities will guarantee a more safer mode of travel,

Second, Hazard and disaster resiliency in an archipelago is of primary importance more so as the Philippines is frequently visited by typhoons and is vulnerable to seismic and volcanic activities. At the moment the national and local government are aware of these vulnerabilities, but there is a need to beef up the coast guard so that they would have adequate manpower, resources and assets to handle hazards and disasters that may arise.

Being an archipelago also makes it vulnerable to crime and overexploitation. A significantly strongest Coast Guard and Naval forces will ensure that seas and channels of the Philippines are safe.

Third, Aside from defense and safe guarding the seas another crucial though sadly overlooked often is the management of its fisheries and aquatic resources. At present the task is given to a number of institutions like the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR); Institutions like the Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA) and the Department of Agriculture (DA) – under the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR),

During the Marcos regime and following the World Bank recommendation. The plan was to expand BFAR into a full department — given the amount of aquatic resources in the archipelago the is not a surprising plan. – Scholars were recruited and scholarships were given to ensure that there were at the time the plan came to being, there was a a group fishery technocrats that would be part of the department. However, the plan never came to be although as of this time there are lans and proposals in the legislature to create a Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (DFAR). Such a body would ensure that our aquatic resources are competently and responsibly managed. Significantly such a body would ensure the aquatic biodiversity and food security of he Philippines.

Furthermore it should be remembered that very soon the most precious aquatic resource would be water itself. In the near future water for agriculture and water for drinking will be a scarce resource and effective management now is critically important. Management and protection of this precious would require the resources of the coastguard, navy, DENR, DA, DFAR, and other related institutions,

So here we are, We starred at looking how Island nations before us have developed their naval forces in order to protect their realms and become an important part of their country’s development. Later on we talked about for island nations the development is not limited to military functions but also for travel, business, fishery and aquatic management. Past Philippine governments have started potentially beneficial projects related to this but for whatever reasons their development was arrested or shelved. It is time now to revive and continue such national enterprise.

(Please note: Closely tied to the development of these forces and institutions is one of the pipe dreams of Philippine indsutrialization — the steel industry for the simple reason you need steel to build ships.)

This post is supported by a writing grant from the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ)