The Views On The Admin's Plan to Deploy Ships to Libya for Rescue Ops

Having citizens that ended up as captives abroad is essentially a government obligation to save them out of trouble given that as a country, it is their role to protect and save these people which, regardless of numbers, still part of the nation's population given that they obtain documents and passports coming from their home nation as well as their families looking after them for the needs of coping up with financially-related matters. And, on the recent events entailing about three Filipinos together with a Korean that became a captive in Libya, things went as rational as really is as the Philippine Government made this bold move.

BRP Andres Bonifacio, a Del Pilar-class Frigate participating
in RIMPAC 2018. Courtesy of Defense Visual Information Distribution Service (DVIDS).
In the recent news with regards to the captives related to Overseas Filipino Workers or OFWs, it was reported across media outlets that three Filipino citizens together with a Korean citizen became captives in which, as information provided by, was held by a month as of this posting by an unknown Libyan militants, west of the country.

This prompts the South Korean warship assigned in anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Eden ROKS Munmu the Great Destroyer to get deployed off the coast of Libya. The said actions of the South Korean Navy also prompted the Philippine Government, especially the President Rodrigo Duterte to deploy also a Philippine Navy Frigate in the area should things on the ground went from bad to worse or for that manner, should the captives get harmed by the militants that handled them. The order of the president was received by the Philippine Navy accordingly, with them preparing to deploy a naval task group that will overlook to the situation. Such idea became a topic across defense platforms where, reactions ranges from a nice, commending move in the part of the administration to a negative reaction that cites technicalities which is definitely, problematic as this manner get discussed on below.

Such actions made by the government exposes several of the shortcomings and the needs that needs to be addressed with regards to the way military assets used over the matter as well as the approaches made and other alternatives in order to resolve the problem. Moreover, it also provides an opportunity where, should be exploited, may help Modernize the Navy where, it is also for the protection of the nation's territorial waters from potential threats both within and outside the country aside from the capabilities that this proposal demands for the fleet.


Pitz Defense Analysis Note: The points that will be given are never, in each and every way, political in nature given that the standpoints are provided from logically-based point of view. In each and every way, the government presents itself in a good will that they themselves wanted its citizens abroad to be safe in a way that families back home will have lesser things to worry about. Add to this, the points are provided based on technical inputs with such knowledge thoroughly discussed across defense platforms.

Given the president's decision to deploy a warship on a country far away from the shores of the Philippines, we may say that such action comes out of goodwill coming from the government that is willing to save its citizens from the harm Libyan militants may inflict to the three Filipino captives that was held for a month. No doubt, it is the job of the government to look after its citizens both within the country and abroad to ensure that things are as good as intended. However, such action to deploy a ship abroad comes with risk where, technically speaking, were as not as appealing it is to be.

The Time, Logistics and Resources
Click to Enlarge. Courtesy of Sea website.
One may ask: How "not appealing" this proposal may be with regards to rescuing three captives out of trouble if the warship deployment proceed as planned? The answer lies to the distance between two countries and the time it takes for a warship to get there. 

In this manner, we simply provide this sample graph from a sea-distances calculation website where measurements are made between, as provided in the example, a Del Pilar-class frigate will take from Subic Bay to Tripoli, Libya given a cruising speed of 15 knots. The results provided that it will take for the ship atleast 20 days to reach the coastlines of Libya which, which in itself may defeat the essential of time. That is without taking the account of the time required for refueling and the number of ports that a warship will visit in order to get replenished. The government for that matter requires coordination with the countries that is suited for refueling of the said frigate in order to keep it going to its primary objective. So, from that matter, if given this situation, things on the ground may happen or take place throughout the voyaging period such as, freeing up captives which ends the situation or violent end with a bloodbath while the naval task force was still somewhere in the Indian Ocean or near the Red Sea. If such scenario taken place, it will be a waste of precious time and resources on something that is already accomplished where, things is seen as disappointing as the fuel was wasted and time intended for the ship deployed on other places such as the contested West Philippine Sea is also wasted. Take note, the Philippine Navy only obtains three capable frigate to cover its entire territorial waters with the rest composed by old World War 2 vessels that needs replacement. That alone suffices the justification that the frigates are more badly needed in the country than sending it abroad, also taking into the picture the threat provided by China in the contested waters off the west coast of Luzon and Palawan.

Well for sure, the government perhaps may also have other alternatives in mind as well which are far more feasible than this said proposal. If those things are followed, it might as well be the better option to execute rather than getting proceed in this bold and risky move which in any way, both objectives are being pursued and attained.

This is not RIMPAC

If the rescue ops will proceed as usual, this will become the second overseas undertaking of the Philippine Navy after the recently-ended RIMPAC 2018 Exercises in Hawaii where, the fleet deploys the BRP Davao and Sur and BRP Andres Bonifacio in order to participate and further gather essential knowledge needed as the organization modernizes further as part of its Navy Sail Plan.

While the exercises provide the long-range deployment capabilities that the Philippine Navy possesses that made the contingents on the way to Hawaii and back, let us take note that the situation that is transpiring in Libya is not an exercise in the same way as RIMPAC will do. Imagine that the deployed task force may have little or no idea what they are dealing with, with also little or no idea about the terrain that they will encounter once they reached the area. Not to mention that a number of Libyan militants uses sophisticated weapons as a result of a weaker government succeeding the Gadaffi Regime way back 2011/2012. That may include anti-ship missiles coming from the old regime where, it poses threat for a Del Pilar-class Frigate given that it does not obtain any air-defense weaponry aside from the chaffs that is installed in the vessel. Now, once the ship reaches the Libyan coastline, some of the questions now are the following:

- Will it just anchor there while doing minor support to the main South Korean contingent? 

- Will the deployed task force get into shore through RHIBS with the permission of the Libyan Government? 

- Will there be better intel sharing between the parties involved?

- Will they get coordination with their South Korean counterparts that will undertake rescue operations together, given that both nations have no idea about the enemy they are dealing with? 

- Will they do it among themselves, conducting operations in a foreign country that can be seen in various ways as "breaching another nation's sovereignty?" 

Those are mere questions along with other ones that may get answered as time passes by, either directly or indirectly. While it is good to see that a citizen-concerned government especially the president and its cabinet doing their very part to save the captives and returning back to their families in one piece and united knowing they are alive, it is also worthy to know that this operation is crucial as lives are at stake with, as the first point, time of deployment and the cost of operating a ship matters. Not only that, while this is a nice thing to show off the flag, but the fact about the uncertainty about the status of the captives is something that demands immediate action in order not to inflict more harm or any possible problems as the time passes by. It might as well to gather intel shared either from South Koreans or from the Libyan Government itself in order to determine what the next move it will be. This is not an act of negativity, but rather as a pragmatic view of things which there are really other things that may also, in any way, may resolve this problem. Take note once again folks, if somebody says that this is just like RIMPAC, don't believe them, with reasons already stated above.

On the bright side though, this scenario shows the necessity for the navy to buy more Navy ships, especially more capable surface assets on its fleet. While they are aspiring for more submarines which in itself a good deterrent for the country to have, perhaps sticking to the original plans of a better, more capable frigates and corvettes as well may do with supplanted budget where, given the 2% GDP funding proposal for the AFP made by the Magdalo Partylist, these things will be a can-do thing alongside recruiting more personnel, building more facilities, and re-organizing doctrine and command setup.

The Alternatives

Now, here are the alternatives which in itself are better than the proposed ship deployment where not only this is time-convenient, but also cost-efficient with better chances of success with the lesser factor for risk-taking.

One idea is simply to coordinate with respective authorities such as the South Koreans that have shorter time to deploy their warship in the area as well as the Libyan Government themselves. From there, they are the ones that will deal on the situation where, in this sense, the South Koreans cannot afford to have a dead citizen in their hands and for the Libyans, they cannot afford to be condemned once again with the risk of affecting their economy as the investments and foreign workers getting out of the area, citing security concerns. This also comes with them coordinating with the nearest Philippine embassy or consulate in the area, with updates provided and reliable intelligence information exchanging between these parties. 

Another idea is to deploy aircraft such as C-130 aircraft or a chartered civilian flight (which is ideally much less suspicious) from any of the local airlines in the Philippines that may carry troops and materiel to the area with the permission of the Libyan authorities with the purpose of pursuing rescue operations the same way as the proposal of sending a naval task force in the area, which requires an airstrip welcoming them fully. One may say: "What if the said authorities say "no", citing concerns that breaches another nation's sovereignty?" Then the answer depends to which country near Libya that accepts the idea to provide an airstrip for the troops to land which the intention is simply for rescue ops and not to any occupation or invasion matters. 

Another alternative is that they may take a subtle approach with blending within the environment being the main feature so as not to raise suspicion. Despite those things, these alternatives may be seen as a better solution on a time and logistics standpoint where, upon weighing pros and cons, it is still essential to deploy an aircraft and land on an open airport while saving time while taking risk on getting a ship in long distances that takes the essential time and costs away varying on the changing situation on the ground.

These solutions are simply more ideal where it may increase the chances guarantee on the success of the operation without incurring unnecessary measures that will take the thing up. That being said, perhaps there shall be a reconsideration over the matter, so that the government will take up these options in the sense that are more feasible than the proposed warship deployment. And in the case that it pushes through as planned, and may fail depending on uncertainties and unknown circumstances, perhaps it may be nicer to provide more tools for the navy to have such as better, capable surface assets and participate on anti-piracy drills the same way South Korea will do so as to guarantee safety to the Overseas Filipino Workers in the area.

The South Korean Navy deployed this ship, the ROKS Munmu the Great
Destroyer - DDG 976. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
While the points are given above with regards to the decision in dealing with the ongoing situation taking place in the other side of the world, it is good to say that being the Commander in Chief, the President simply commanded the Navy to deploy one of its frigates in order to save the captives in an unknown terrain dealing with an unknown enemy.

The bottomline is that, such proposal, although it goes with a nice intention of rescuing captives off from a certain militant, is simply not viable especially given the long period in which, with uncertainty may make or break the primary objective. Add to that, the Philippines, being a archipelagic nation, obtains a naval fleet that is stretched in the distribution of naval assets across the country in which it is the main purpose as to why the Modernization Program is on the roll. The present demands of protecting territorial waters weighs more than the situation taking place abroad which it can resolved in other ways without getting a ship deployed there. To summarize this up, it might be better for the government to address the issue in a way that in the future, they may simply assign a warship or two on anti-piracy operations where, should these things arise, it will be easier for the ships to deploy, on a shorter time period and less cost of fuel involved.

Hence, it might as well for the government to reconsider its actions unless if it in itself is more than willing to take the risk while wasting time and cost on fuel in the process. That being said, only time will tell whether they ended up successful or not or perhaps, whether such plans proceed or not.

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