• Knowing the Philippine Army's BO-105 Helicopters

    These donated helicopters operated by the Philippine Army's Aviation Regiment provides much needed field support, especially on medevac-related evacuation and other logistical concerns.

  • Updates on the PAF's C-130J-30 Super Hercules Aircraft

    The Philippine Air Force, for the first time, sets to have at least three (3) brand new cargo aircraft from Lockheed Martin, which is done through a commercial deal between the two entities.

  • Phil. Army's Armored Vehicle-Launched Bridge Project

    This AVLB with a Merkava IV chassis serves as the first platform of such type for the Philippine Army to use, and may set as a reference for the service branch’s future armored vehicle plans and programs later on.

  • Navantia's Submarine Offer to the Philippine Navy

    The Spanish shipbuilder has offered its submarine offer for the Philippine Navy's submarine project. How will it fare compare to its competitors like France's Naval Group and South Korea's Hanwha Ocean?

  • Knowing the AW-109 Helicopter of both PAF and PN

    Both the Philippine Air Force and the Philippine Navy possess this type of helicopter that basically define as a first step towards a more capable Armed Forces, implemented during the First Horizon of the AFP Modernization Program.

  • The Phil. Army's Interest on the FGM-148 Javelin ATGM

    The Philippine Army is improving its firepower capabilities, and it witnessed the performance brought by this anti-tank missile during the Balikatan 2023 Exercises. Now they are considering it for their systems.

  • Know More About Us

    Just kindly click this link to understand more about our resolve of providing knowledge and perspective in relation to the Philippine defense and other related topics or discussions.

The BRP Gabriela Silang - Phil. Coast Guard's Largest Aluminum Hull OPV

The Philippine Coast Guard recently has its newest white vessel launched into water for the first time in a French coastline town of Les Sables-d'Olonne, facing the Atlantic Ocean off the West Coast of the French countryside as its own shipyard unraveled before the locals and to the Philippine contingent this platform that will revolutionize the organization's desire of protecting its territorial waters that coincide national integrity.

The BRP Gabriela Silang (OPV-8301) hours before launching to water
through large cranes. Image Source.
Residents of the French coastal town of Les Sables-d'Olonne witnessed what is thought to be the largest-ever vessel that the OCEA shipyard has launched out of its workshop down to the water as the Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV) floats in the water for the first time on July 17, 2019. 

The launch of the Philippine Coast Guard vessel, based on the OPV-270 design of the company, was witnessed by the Philippine Coast Guard contingent led by Commandant Admiral Elson Hermogino where he said that the ship's purpose goes in line with the current administration's policy of deploying it to both the West Philippine Sea and the Philippine (Benham Rise) in what is seen as white hull diplomacy where a presence of the ship alone sends a message of not backing down.

This is the organization's largest vessel yet, as it is part of a deal inked in 2014 that includes a French bank financing scheme and calls for the supplier OCEA to furnish four 24-meter patrol boats known as Boracay-class patrol boats and a single 83-meter ship known as the BRP Gabriela Silang (image above). It is worth knowing that the ship, just like the others after launching, will still undertake sea trials wherein its components will be put to the test as well as for the crew that will soon be assigned to the ship will be undertaking numerous training so as the vessel, aside from its size also obtains features which are considered relatively new not only within the Philippine Coast Guard but also to all of the vessels obtained by the Government of the Philippines, including those in the Philippine Navy.

The delivery, given the statements made by the ranking Coast Guard officials who attended the event, will take place five months from now which is in December, before the year 2019 ends. Once it arrives in the country, it will be viewed as a pleasant Christmas present for the organization, as they will be able to see what will soon become one of the most important assets in the Philippine Coast Guard's arsenal. Obtaining the vessel is just one of the many projects the agency is working on to modernize itself with more capable vessels, as white hulls are now playing a bigger role in protecting the country's waters, particularly the disputed West Philippine Sea, the porous Sulu, and Celebes Seas, and the affirmed waters of the Benham Rise.

Website: https://www.ocea.fr/; https://www.ocea-ssm.com/
The shipbuilder's headquarters is situated in Western France.
Image Source.
OCEA S.A., as described on their website, is a renowned French shipbuilder with building aluminum-based vessels a specialty, which in itself is a pinnacle of their creation and production wherein they can produce vessels based on this type of metal as a basis for a ship's hull up into 85 meters. Apparently, the recent Philippine Coast Guard vessel BRP Gabriela Silang is considered to be one of the largest vessels ever built by the company.

Its creation traces back more than three decades ago in 1987
 when Roland Joassard and Fabrice Epaud founded the company by taking over a shipyard in Les Sables-d'Olonne - the current headquarters of the company. It is worth taking an interesting fact that the current constitution that the country, the Republic of the Philippines, utilizes on its everyday legal matters was written on this specific year. 

Since its inception, this company has opened various workshops across France, the first of which was in the French town of Saint-Nazaire, which is likewise located on the coast in Western France and faces the Atlantic Ocean. While it's military and law enforcement applications come with the production of aluminum-built Offshore Patrol Vessels, this company is also notable for its production of Private Yachts where their aluminum builts are an ideal thing for the production of these luxurious vessels given that it is part of their market chain. 

Aside from the private yachts, they are also in the market that produces commercial and passenger vessels, wherein it may obtain a nice additive in terms of dealing with the company given that the Philippines' geographic setup is an archipelago. In fact, the country's maritime setting is something that entices the company to plan and set up shop in the Philippines in such a way that it will not only help the nation improve its Roll on-roll off or RORO vessels and benefiting from contracts along the process but also help the Philippine shipbuilding industry to be more vibrant in a way that they can produce more jobs amongst the locals, as well as have that competitiveness in providing the products given that the labor force in the country is abundant in resources. This is also going with the government's plan in assisting them in their entry that may help their products drive down on cost a bit that may entice the local shipbuilding industry to consider their products and procure them along the way.

With these recent developments within the company's operations and desires to increase its market share and managing its growth by having a workshop/shipbuilding branch in the country, it may not be that surprising if this will mean that both sides will benefit more along the process now that with the plans of entering the nation's local shipbuilding scene may also mean providing them additional orders for OPVs like the BRP Gabriela Silang - the largest one they ever built.

Here is the design that makes the BRP Gabriela Silang.
The length of the ship is in fact 83.6 meters.
Link: https://www.ocea-ssm.com/opv-270

The BRP Gabriela Silang is derived from the OPV-270 design in which is considered the largest vessel that is currently offered by OCEA in the market. From here, it is worth knowing that the BRP Gabriela Silang is definitely the first of its class in such a manner that having them is definitely a welcoming thing for the Philippine Coast Guard as well as an outstanding achievement for OCEA given that their plans and designs of the ship are now being produced and soon to be in the Philippine Coast Guard service with the plans of procuring at least one more.

This product boasts its aluminum hull and an environment-friendly engine (2 MTU 16V4000M73) where the power plant composition of the vessel isn't purely a diesel-type one but rather, it runs in diesel-electric hybrid propulsion which is more fuel-efficient than usual diesel-operating ones. 

That being said, this is definitely the first Philippine agency ship that comes with a new engine configuration, wherein any key Philippine vessels especially the ones in the Philippine Navy usually operates on a purely-diesel setup (Combined Diesel and Diesel or CODAD) alongside several of their vessels currently in operations that obtain non-purely diesel powerplant wherein four ships in their fleet runs on Combined Diesel Or Gas (CODOG) composition - the powerplants that are situated on board the Del Pilar-class Offshore Patrol Vessels of the Philippine Navy and the incoming BRP Conrado Yap (PS-39) from South Korea. 

Both the aluminum hull and the hybrid engine provide the ship an extended patrol range of 8,000 nautical miles (nm), which is twice the ones specified for the Jose Rizal-class frigates that obtain only 4,500 nautical miles. The range, along with the ship's Endurance of 5 weeks (more than a month), means that it can help enhance its patrols in a way that the ship's performance provides that additional capabilities that the Philippine Coast Guard badly needs in patrolling the country's archipelagic setup which renders to be one of the longest coastlines obtained on the planet. 

The range and the endurance are not only the benefits that the vessel will provide to the Philippine Coast Guard. Such configuration will also help the organization efficiently operate the ship in a way that having a vessel as large as this one will not bear much of a burden for the organization in terms of operating it. Its efficiency also comes to its effectiveness in performing the duties of a Coast Guard, such as maritime enforcement and providing presence especially in the light of the issues in the West Philippine Sea where one of the best ways to deal with the situation is to employ white hull diplomacy given that China employs its coast guard to enforce its so-called claims over the whole contested sea even if it goes against the International Law.

Read more: "The East Asia White Hull Challenge - PDA; published August 1, 2016"

The aluminum hull in itself obtains both advantages and disadvantages. While the former is the one that usually gets advertised wherein its lightness means operational effectiveness as well as better patrol range, the latter is something that history provides insight with regards to the concerns in using aluminum as the primary material in producing offshore patrol vessels like this one for the Philippine Coast Guard. One example is the incident involving the USS Belknap Guided Missile Cruiser (CG-26) when it collided with the larger USS John F. Kennedy Aircraft Carrier in 1975, where its Aluminum superstructure became a concern for the ship where the material tends to melt when things get heated on extremely high temperatures. Not to mention that damages resulted from extreme ramming of ships which is usual among Coast Guard Vessels in East Asia may get a bit too costly to repair, which in itself may go as a heavy burden for the end-user like the Philippine Coast Guard, unless if the ship keeps its distance from the danger given that this vessel is primarily for Command and Control Operations as what its users are intending for this vessel. 

For a comparison of what the pros and cons are for both Aluminum and Steel hulls, check this article written by yacht enthusiasts wherein just like Navy and Coast Guard ones, their marine attributes share the same principle on manufacturing hulls especially in terms of using both properties for their build. Just to take note, OCEA builds the BRP Gabriela Silang on a MILSPEC-grade Aluminum hull built which may go a bit different from the usual aluminum-produced vessels.
Missions specified as per design and specifications.
Obtained via Le Reporter Sablais - A French outlet.
This vessel, the BRP Boracay (FPB-2401) is part of this
procurement project.
An initiative spearheaded by the people within the Department of Transportation for the Philippine Coast Guard use (check related link here).

The production of the BRP Gabriela Silang, along with the four smaller Boracay-class patrol boats (Boracay, Panglao, Malamawi, and Kalanggaman) are contracted under the program named as "The Philippine Ports and Coast Guard Capability Development Project" which itself primarily sought the necessity for the Philippine Coast Guard to Modernize its fleet and organizational setup, much like in the case study that compels their peers in the Armed Forces of the Philippines to Modernize earlier than this organization. To take some note, the contract under this program was signed September 09, 2014, with the Notice to Proceed initiated three (3) years later, on September 23, 2017. 

Such project helps improve the organization for the better in a way that it augments both the existing ships in the inventory, as well as the ones procured from Japan such as the 10-unit, 44-meter Tubbataha-class Multirole Response Vessels (MRRVs), in which having these vessels are now getting more of a necessity given the spectrum of how things are being played currently in the West Philippine Sea, as well as the porous Sulu and Celebes Seas wherein smuggling, potential transit of terrorists and cases of piracy that is prevalent in the area that hampers economic progress in the Southern Philippines. 

In providing the presence that is badly needed in these concerned areas, the country may help further secure not only its resources for both economic growth and food security, but also for the benefit of safe passage for the merchant ships to pass through as this organization also opting on establishing the National Coast Watch System (coordinated with other organizations such as the Philippine Navy) across the country as well as building new Coast Guard bases in areas such as the one situated on the West Coast of Zamboanga.

Hence, this welcoming development provides potential future prospects for the organization to have more large vessels such as the BRP Gabriela Silang where the Philippine Coast Guard opts to follow up another such platform for its inventory to have, not to mention that the organization is also benefiting from the planning and production of the incoming 94-meter brand-new Japanese cutters, in which its design may be derived from the Kunigami-class patrol vessels of the Japanese Coast Guard. The Spec-sheet of this class of cutters may be provided later on this blog website.

The BRP Gabriela Silang during the construction phase.
The BRP Gabriela Silang serves as a significant gain for the Philippine Coast Guard's desire to Modernize its assets wherein the current tools utilized in asserting rights, especially in the highly-contested West Philippine Sea definitely involve white hulls where this organization deserves more of such assets.

One may take note that the organization will definitely not settle on just one unit of such ship this large for their duties and responsibilities as mandated by law. The Brp Gabriela Silang in this manner serves as a stepping stone for the Coast Guard personnel to have where having a single unit for its crew to man is a nice venue of gathering skills and experience required by the organization in handling large ships in the same way as the Philippine Navy ordered the Del Pilar-class Offshore Patrol Vessels as the stepping stone before purchasing more sophisticated assets such as the Jose Rizal-class Frigates. 

Upon the incurred skillsets and experience onboard the BRP Gabriela Silang, this may go helpful along the way once larger assets will be coming to the organization in a sense that the operations will proceed smoothly, while further enforcing Maritime National Interests and Maritime Domain Awareness that the country needs to have especially on its archipelagic geography, where its economics and livelihood relies on the bodies of water that surrounds the nation.

The future of the organization is bright with ship of such type is at disposal, as it provides relief to the Filipino fishermen if such vessel accompanied their livelihood as well as its presence providing that message in which the country stands for its national interest, its sovereignty, and the welfare of its citizenry. 

Perhaps, things will go ascertain so as the number of ships is needed to cover the whole country where there goes the assurance that along with other government vessels such as those with the Philippine Navy, provides that enforcement and deterrence that is needed that helps pave development of the whole nation as well as securing maritime resources that goes along the benefit of the Filipino people.

The Scorpene-class Submarine Option for the Philippine Navy

Recent reports provided some interesting insights regarding the increasing probability of cooperation between the French and the Filipinos, especially in terms of defense-related collaborations and agreements that may involve military technology. 

Hence, it always comes to the picture the ideas of having such assets being offered wherein its capabilities and design developments will be discussed to our knowledge here on the blog website.

This is the Scorpene-class Submarine INS Kalvari, currently in service
with the Indian Navy.
Image gathered via Wikimedia Commons.

On the reports coming beforehand, the Defense Department in a news article has expressed interest in buying brand new military hardware that is made in France, as the French themselves are also open to having a nice relationship with the Philippines especially in terms of defense-related cooperation.

Based on these reports, it is interesting to see that both parties involved are opting or are interested to have a nice cooperation with one another, as it means a lot that benefits both sides especially when a deal is already in place. The benefits provided here provided the French an opportunity in gaining another country to market its military hardware or products that can be seen as useful for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and its operations, as well as for the buyer gaining new equipment which is both efficient and effective in performing its duties and responsibilities as it complies to the requirements needed in augmentation on the assessment of threats that the country faces on both domestic and foreign areas. 

Before discussing more on the procurement option based on the product made by the French company Naval Group, it is worth reading this article we wrote years ago about the prospectives made by the Philippine Navy in terms of the procurement of submarines as a whole, entitling "The Philippine Submarine Procurement Program" written way back February 10, 2017. 

While the Scorpene submarines aren't provided in the article content, the French DCNS, which is now known as the Naval Group, is also known to produce the AMX-23 Andrasta as its affordability, as per that post, may go beneficial for a fleet like those of the Philippine Navy where the deals were traced back to the previous administration wherein Presidents of both the Philippines and France at that time signed an agreement which pertains to the both nations' Defense Cooperation Agreement

As such agreements being bonded since then, it comes as no surprise to why both the French and the Philippine Defense Department are interesting in a potential defense deal, wherein just as said here, the former is open for defense cooperation that increases their defense market foothold in Asia-Pacific region while the latter is opting to keep on Modernizing the whole Armed Forces as it goes per the Republic Act 10349 or the Revised AFP Modernization Program of 2013

Hence, with these interests and previous agreements forged between both sides as well as the aspiring dreams and aspirations of the Philippine Navy in terms of having capable assets on its fleet that may provide that deterrence a country needs in terms of protecting both the territorial water and the Exclusive Economic Zone this nation obtains. 

A French FREMM Frigate is being towed as it is being built in progress.
Image Courtesy to Naval Group through the link here.

Check their website here: https://www.naval-group.com/en/ 

Naval Group is notably a known French Defense Industry player specialized in Naval Shipbuilding and marine engineering which specializes in renewable energy solutions. As such, it is the main provider of military naval equipment primarily on notable countries in Europe, especially in its home nation of France, its immediate NATO neighbors like Italy, and several more outside of Europe which will be discussed throughout this article.

French Naval Shipbuilding started way back 1600s when building dockyards for exploring the world (and colonize several territories outside of Europe) was a trend back then, providing those maritime power projections that will help counter England's naval superiority at that time, sufficing enough for the country's national interest at that time particularly those of the French Royal Court's desire. No doubt that such maritime power was tested during the American Revolutionary War, where France utilized its Navy to help the American militias under Gen. George Washington to fight for freedom against the British Colonists of that period.

Moving on with time, more French shipyards were built across the nation's coastlines that serve as the country's backbone on its shipbuilding industry where it includes the construction of Naval Warships of various types such as Frigates and Battleships. 

Throughout the 20th Century, the French Naval Ship maintenance and repairs were being done by the French Navy through the Directions des Constructions et Armes Navales (DCAN), which in itself is the forerunner of the DCN or the Direction des Construction Navales, wherein this company became the mainstream provider of service and materials that are needed for the French Navy to keep up its ship's operations. 

It is worth noting that this shipbuilder is the one who built the La-Fayette class Frigates for the French Navy, in which its variants can be seen in several nations such as Taiwan's Kang Ding Class Frigates and Singapore's ever-sophisticated Formidable-class Frigates which is considered the most capable combat vessel obtained by a Southeast Asian Nation. 

The DCN and its DCAN predecessor were originally a shipbuilding company that is controlled by the French Government, in the same matter that the Israeli Shipyards were once under control by the Israeli Government before being a standalone company, or the Indonesian PT PAL Persero, wherein the Indonesian Government obtains a stake over the industry. That changed where itself was transformed from a government company into a standalone commercial enterprise supervised under private law

The company eventually undertakes a partnership agreement with Thompson-CSF (Now Thales), which is currently obtaining a stake within this undertaking that paves the way on a step that recognizes such setup that is shown through its name, DCNS - the direct predecessor of the current Naval Group.

Just recently, last June 28, 2017, DCNS changed its name into what is now known as the Naval Group, wherein it reflects its current mission which is more on producing naval products that stand on their principle of helping its customer nations protect their sovereign interests. Currently, it is notable to a worth that this shipbuilder's reputation is well known that they are also the ones behind France's Mistral-class Amphibious Assault Ships, Gowind-Class Corvettes (wherein Malaysia's Maharaja-Lela class Frigates were derived), and of course, the Scorpene-class submarines wherein several countries obtain and still currently in active service.

Check more of their products here: 
Naval Group - Products [link].

This is currently the Naval Group's Diesel Submarine being offered
in the market.
Image Source.

The submarine, on its first insight, defines what a French defense shipbuilding industry may bring to its customers, wherein such a weapon may define the ways of protecting the country and its national interest, especially if its geographical setup is ideal for the deployment of such sub-surface vessels like in the Philippines with its archipelagic setup. While the supplier of such submarines is currently done by the French Naval Group, here lies more of a story wherein its development isn't limited to a single country alone.

This is where France's neighboring country of Spain comes in. Way back to the early stage of the Scorpene's development, both DCNS and what was then Spain's Bazan (which is now called Navantia), collaborated one after the other wherein they jointly develop these submarines for the Chilean Navy. From there alone, it is worthy to note that such submarines are originally intended for export purposes, given that a French company such as DCNS also produces a different type of submarine for its fleet, such as the 1983-developed Rubis-class nuclear-attack submarines, wherein it is currently replaced by a more modern Barracuda-class nuclear-attack submarines. Not to mention that the French also obtains a handful of ballistic nuclear submarines in its inventory, coming in a form of the Triomphe-class nuclear ballistic missile submarines.

Speaking of the Rubis-class nuclear-attack submarines, it will definitely go as the primary basis on the design of the Scorpene-class submarines especially the improved Rubis variant which is the more silenced Amethyste submarines. The experience that DCNS has obtained back then with the Rubis then to the improved Amethyste helps influence the improvements being incorporated to the Scorpene-class submarines which are now being in operation in four countries that such submarines were exported. Currently, it is in service in the following countries:

Details as per posting (check the reference here).
- Brazil (2 in-construction, 3 planned)
- India (1 in service, 1 in trials, 1 in-construction, 3 planned)
- Chile (2 in service)
- Malaysia (2 in service)

Following the success in the delivery of the submarines to the Chilean Navy (naming the O'Higgins SS-23 and the Carrera SS-22), the French-Spanish developed submarine was then delivered next to Malaysia, bearing with names KD Tunku Abdul Rahman and the KD Tun Abdul Razak. Currently, the country that obtains the most number of Scorpene-class submarines is the Indian Navy, with three being built with three more under construction. 

In other words, if this is being considered by the Philippine Navy for its Submarine Procurement Project, it will not be much of a concern in terms of its procurement eligibility, given that four nations are currently utilizing it, exceeding the standard requirement of at least two nations utilizing the asset, other than the country of which these platforms were made.

Now to the specifics of the submarines themselves. If this will be considered, it is worth noting that its hull design is directly aiming to attain Stealthiness while getting that enhanced detection capability, which in turn to a better offensive power. It is sophisticated enough just to carry 32 crew onboard wherein the automation of the submarine's system will make things manageable on navy personnel assigned on the submarines.

In terms of power, it obtains two diesel generation sets of two individual generators which totaled to 1,250kW of energy provided for the submarine to be operational in which this goes augmented with an additional electric motor which generates 2,900kW of power. From here, one may say that the propulsion configuration of the vessel is in a Combined Diesel or Electric or CODOE in form. 

Such propulsion is a necessity given that diesel engines themselves generate more noise which defeats the purpose of the submarine's stealthiness since that sound generated can be detected underwater through an enemy submarine's passive sonar that is designed to detect sounds from the surrounding water to determine friend, foe, an innocent vessel or a biological animal such as a whale. The electric motor provides the stealthiness a submarine such as the Scorpene needs to perform its intended design.

Here are the specifications of the Scorpene-class submarines to provide the idea about its compositions, at least the ones provided in the public domain.
Table Reference Source.

The Chilean Navy Scorpene-class submarines. Image Source.

Even since before the Revised AFP Modernization Program took place, the Philippine Navy already desires to have a submarine for its fleet, only that recently, the Defense Department starts to set sights on their desire on getting submarines from France as what Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said as reported in this linked BusinessMirror article.

It is becoming apparent that the Department of National Defense is considering these French-made submarines where the Defense Secretary is about to visit France in September this year where he can witness first hand to the functions of the French Defense Industries there as well as getting in line with the French desire of seeking for a firm defense pact or cooperation between France and the Philippines.

Aside from getting the Philippines more capable to defend itself before its potential enemies ranging from terrorist bandits to territorial grabbers like China, the French are also assuring its territorial interests in both the Indian and Pacific Oceans given that they still obtain a handful of overseas departments or overseas territories in Oceania such as French Polynesia and New Caledonia as well as RĂ©union which is situated in the Indian Ocean.

The French submarine option is being looked at by the Defense Department given its reputation in shipbuilding where SecDef Delfin Lorenzana said that the French are good at building such assets. No doubt, as discussed along with this article, the lengthy history of the French shipbuilding, as well as the experience it coincides, are a testament of their ingenuity in which the French Navy in itself obtain a handful of nuclear-powered submarines, both attack and ballistic missile in nature. 

It is worth taking note that the Philippine Navy's Sail Plan initiative calls for three submarines to be purchased as it followed the rule of thirds where the procurement may take place within the Horizon 2 which is from 2018 up to 2022. Once materialized, this may mean an additional capability of the service branch to learn and enhance so as it revolutionizes the maritime naval deterrence that the country obtains against foreign adversaries.

Here, once again is the timeline of submarine purchases, along
with training and organization as per DOTMLPF analysis.
Obtained from Submarine Group article.

The Philippine Navy, as well as the Department of National Defense, now have the greater desire of seeking and planning of procuring submarines in which itself considered as the first for the Philippine Navy in which it lags itself currently against its neighbors like Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, China, and even Taiwan who obtains such sophisticated assets.

While seeking or having them is ideal for the country's maritime deterrence, it is also worth to take consideration the procurement of surface vessels wherein at the current rate, the Philippine Navy is about to receive its delivery of both the Jose Rizal-class Frigates and the BRP Conrado Yap from South Korea, with the latter to be initiated before this year ends. Not to mention that the service organization is also opting for more Offshore Patrol Vessels (in which Austal is leading) and two new corvettes which in itself is either equally or better-sophisticated vessels than the Frigates varying on the terms of the deal. 

All of which goes to show that the Philippine Navy, just as the other branches under the Armed Forces of the Philippines together with other uniform service organizations such as the Philippine National Police and the Philippine Coast Guard are growing together in a way that they are not only accepting more aspiring applicants to man up the respective organizations and agencies but also in buying new tools and equipment that will help assigned personnel to effectively and efficiently deliver their duties and responsibilities in a way that they adhere to what the nation's law mandates them.

It remains to be seen now to whether the Defense Department will stick to the French option in supplying submarines or switch on to another supplier, or put this under bidding altogether instead of having it put under some Government-to-Government deal which is an ideal approach of going French and considering the Scorpene as a submarine for Philippine Navy use. 

All that it takes now is to keep tabs on the progress of this project and see whether these organizational hopes and dreams will be getting closer to materialization which equates to the reality of having it purchased.

The Dynamics of the Arbitral Tribunal Decision in the Current West Philippine Sea Issue

Three years ago, the Hague has made a decision that nullifies the Chinese nine-dash-line claim over the South China Sea which includes the West Philippine Sea. While it may be seen as a victorious standpoint on the Philippines' end which means that the Chinese claims are considered null and void, the military militias and the artificial islands are simply getting more and more common in which the de-facto foothold of the People's Republic of China over its claims is simply getting more firm, making it more of a difficulty for a country like the Philippines to retake (a case of skirmish although that does not mean a full war).

View Image Source here.
It is known for everyone that there is this recent incident taking place on the Reed Bank that a Filipino-manned fishing vessel was rammed by a larger Chinese one, damaging in the process while its fishermen onboard being adrift to the sea for hours until the Vietnamese who, also within the Philippine EEZ, arrived to rescue them up.

The issue stirs a lot of politically-related madness where, for this article, isn't worth that discussing at all given that it will simply lose all the relevance in matters which are by nature, emotionally-moved and that may move the biases across without understanding the larger picture of the complexities going on in these murky waters that may be considered a potential flashpoint for a full-scale conflict. However, despite all of the fracas that was made to use against policies per se while having sensible arguments such as citing the constitution (it will be discussed later), it will not dismiss the fact that for all of the years of rhetoric, incursions, and even violent skirmishes that took place in this body of water which is filled with resources and an ideal trade route for global economic flow, the recent incident simply shows that it is only one of the cases that the claimants, especially the more-dominant People's Republic of China show an abrupt case of flexing its power in the manner that it might seem to be gone unchallenged by powers who are utilizing options such as the Freedom of Navigation Patrols, although its message is being sent across, showing defiance against China and the United States getting its trade war in a level unseen in years where the challenge of power in the economic field is being played by both sides.

Now, let this be an educative discussion where factual basis will be provided, and details regarding the complexities of this dispute will be provided unto you, the reader of this article. To start with, let us discuss the difference between the South China Sea and the West Philippine Sea.

Freedom of Navigation Patrols are a thing in countries like
The United States of America.
Link to the image source here.
One may ask: Isn't it the South China Sea and the West Philippine Sea pertains to the same body of water situated just West of the Philippines or just South of China, where contested features such as the Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal and the Kalayaan (Spratly) island groups situated?

The answer to this question is indeed partly correct. One now ask: Why is that so? Care to elaborate it more? Well, here is the thing we need to know about the difference between the two names, about an almost-similar body of water which in itself is a contested one between a multitude of countries that surrounds it.

Here comes the elaborated definition of what the West Philippine Sea consists of as defined in the Administrative Order. 29 signed September 5, 2012, under the then-Aquino presidency. It is worth to know that it referenced the Republic Act No. 9522 or the Archipelagic Baselines Law of 2009 as well as the Presidential Decree No. 1599 which defines the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone dated June 11, 1978, which sets it up to 200 Nautical Miles, in a similar manner as the ones stipulated in the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea or UNCLOS

It is worth noting that the Sections 1 and 2 provide the coverage of the West Philippine Sea as far as provisions are concerned wherein it only covers the adjacent waters West of the Philippine Archipelago, especially the waters that surround the Kalayaan Island Group and the Panatag Shoal. In other words, it is only limited to these aforementioned features that the West Philippine Sea covers to assert the jurisdiction and Sovereignty as well as the Sovereign Rights that it also comes with. It is not included the Paracel island chains that both Vietnam and China are also competing with within the South China Sea area as well as the Natuna islands in which undisputedly Indonesian, only that it fell within the Chinese Nine-Dash line which prompts them to add more defense on their foothold for the betterment of their sovereignty.

So, it is ideal to put it the next time normal posts are made, distinguishing the West Philippine Sea and South China Sea will be emphasized for the better with the former focused more on the waters of both the Kalayaan Island Group and Panatag Shoal while the latter being the more generalized-terminology in primary discussion purposes.

Hence, it is a worthy thing to say that the West Philippine Sea is part of the greater South China Sea area while the South China Sea isn't covered in full by the West Philippine Sea. Lest to say about this matter, the Vietnamese are also fond of naming this body of water on their own by naming it the "East Sea".

These activists are in The Hague back then to support the Philippine
Stand against China.
Image Source here.
To understand further about the decision made by the Hague in the South China Sea in its entirety which includes the West Philippine Sea itself, it is worthy to pinpoint out the relevant and interesting details on its content that will shed light to its technicalities - stuff that involves the claims laid by the Chinese as well as those of other claimants including the Republic of the Philippines.

The award in its entirety can be accessed on this PDF file here.

First, the proceedings of the arbitral tribunal were attended by the Philippine side whereas the Chinese didn't send their representatives in the Hague to defend their arguments so as far as their claims are concerned. It is considered a victory by default as depicted given that only the Philippine side argues to what the Chinese claims based on their so-called Historical significance, a point that is not provided in the UNCLOS or in its provisions.

Second, the recognition of the reefs or islands in the West Philippine Sea is defined in the ruling itself wherein it was not recognized as islands sustainable enough to be habitable such as the ones situated in Itu Aba island, the outpost stationed by Taiwanese personnel in which it nullifies the Chinese claim further that these "features" as depicted are part of their integral territory as claimed through the years. Since these are considered as only "features" of rocks and reefs dotting the West Philippine Sea, the 12 nautical mile territorial water baseline nor the 200 nautical miles EEZ will not be applied or to be used as a baseline. What remains is the Philippines' claim of Sovereign Rights especially on the features situated within its Exclusive Economic Zone wherein its resources, as per the 1987 Constitution, are to be utilized and enjoyed exclusively by Filipinos.

Now on the background on the Chinese claims - how come China claims almost the entirety of the South China Sea in the first place? The answer lies to what the then-predominant Republic of China under Generalissimo Chiang Kai Shek published a map on the South China Sea in 1947 before the country was overrun by the Communists who are now ruling the Mainland led by a commissar named Mao Zedong in 1949. From there then, the mainland communists adopted the stand of the Republic of China which still persists until today. No surprises here given that Communist China in the mainland and the Republic of China now seats in the island of Taiwan obtain similarly claims over the South China Sea, albeit the former being more aggressive in taking it up for their own prestige in line to their desire of national integrity, similar to their desires to integrate Macau and Hong Kong for the better as well as the option of invading Taiwan (which is now arming itself up) which means a lot for the CCP echelon especially on their rising influence in the region that will not sit by the United States which still holds dominant power with bases situated in Okinawa, Japan, and Guam.

Third, it nullifies not only the Chinese Nine-dash line which is beyond the 200 nautical miles stated in the UNCLOS, but also not lay to the claim that areas such as the Panatag (Scarborough Shoal) being part of the Philippines. What is stated in the ruling is that the Shoal is considered international in nature wherein this is a fishing ground not only for the Filipino fishermen but also for countries like China, Taiwan, and also Vietnam (the Vietnamese do not have claims over Panatag Shoal). So, while it may be seen as a victory of the Philippines against the claims made by the People's Republic of China which are seen as invalid, such a victory isn't necessarily 100% due to the said reasons. Take note folks, Sovereignty, and Sovereign Rights are different in nature. 

So, this means that it provides the fishermen the freedom to fish for a living especially in that entitlement of 200 nautical miles Exclusive Economic Zone wherein it is worthy for the country to enjoy its maritime resources and use that for its economic growth and also for the benefit of its citizenry especially for the fishermen who are considered vital in providing the nation's maritime food security. So, it is unjust for the Chinese to simply implement their rules by warding off Filipino fishermen over traditional fishing grounds which were considered free to fish before the intensification of the situation that still persists up until the present date.

Now, with the situation still in place even at the time of this article's posting, one may even question on how effective the ruling was in enforcing or even putting things into action for the Chinese to leave the area eventually as the ruling voids up the claims they made in the South China Sea through the nine-dash line. Not to mention the measurement of support that the International Community obtains over this issue. 

Chinese Modern Infrastructures can be seen from Pag-Asa island in
the West Philippine Sea. Subi Reef is one of the areas occupied
by the Chinese by transforming it into what is seen as an Artificial
Image Source.
Such a question is something that is striking in nature that one needs to ponder it more given that upon the context of things, the answer may vary on what perspective one may take as well as on the actual situation on the ground. The spectrum of argument may simply not be limited to the area of concern nor to the claimants but also may affect the context of order and status in the region which is as important as any other essential events taking place across the world.

The first argument that can be easily be brought here is the enforcement provisions of the ruling. Apparently, there will be no other nation to enforce such a claim aside from the one who raises it up before the Hague which is the Philippines. The only problem that can be seen in such enforcement is that the country, in its desire to Modernizing its Armed Forces and Coast Guard, still lacks the equipment needed to get it done. 

Apparently, China is continuously improving its defenses over its artificial islands and recently, it employed maritime militias which enables cabbage strategy of choking up an outpost of its resources for its occupiers to leave by having it surrounded by vessels such as the ones operated by the militia, paving the way for their entry. 

The only thing for such a ruling to be enforced is somewhat to buy time (not by Kowtowing), hasten the Modernization process by wrapping up the procurement projects in a shorter time period possible, and to increase the necessary funding required to sustain the Armed Forces minimum credible defense posture. 

While such an idea is a bit of wishful thinking especially on the timeline and the funding, the fact that the Pag-Asa island being rehabilitated with the beach ramp being the first step and the Modernization projects still getting through, there is still a bit of hope of getting it done. It is only that things are going against time as China introduces more armaments in its artificial islands that may put the country into more harm if not resolved appropriately.

The second argument can be seen here is the support of the international community against the actions of the Chinese in the West Philippine Sea. It is shown recently in multiple reports that the United States at a recent date is committed to protect and defend the country against any foreign armed attack such as the ones potentially done by the Chinese shall a flashpoint may take place involving Filipino forces. 

Another is the continuous Freedom of Navigation Patrols made by countries such as France just recently wherein such an activity is a sign that they are with the international law especially now that the tribunal decisions were based from such laws stipulated in which they are to uphold and show to the Chinese that their actions are baseless and is not in accordance to such norms. Take note that both the Republic of the Philippines and the People's Republic of China is a signatory of 1983 United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea, a thing that means adherence to the provisions formulated in that law. 

While the second argument seems to weigh less than the first one given that the Chinese are still in their artificial islands and outposts after every commitments and Freedom of Navigation Patrols take place, it is worth to understand that there are still countries who are still taking such a move in a manner that the South China Sea or the West Philippine Sea is not only a place for fishermen to make a living (with exclusivities in Sovereign Rights) but also providing a place to have a safer passage of goods, especially that the contested water is in itself a trade route that is worth the connection from the countries in the West through the Indian Ocean all the way to the Asia Pacific region. 

Hence, there are still actions being taken to find a way to resolve such a situation in a manner that will not spark a full conflict. 

So, to answer the question "is the ruling nothing more than a piece of paper?" the answer here is it varies. Yes, it does not help shoo the Chinese now that they invested a lot of money and resources to improve defenses and employ maritime militia, a desire that in line with their national interest which is to integrate the contested waters into their national territory given that they recognize it as their own, disregarding the arbitral decision that nullifies their sovereignty over the entire South China Sea. No, in a manner that the International Community is doing something especially in sending a message to China about their actions with the freedom of navigation being a thing.

As long as these ships are around, there will be problems
for the Filipino fishermen to keep up the livelihood.
Image Source.
As of the date of this article's posting, the fact is there that the Chinese are still in their artificially-made islands with current progress made in defending them up, fishermen of countries including the Philippines still risking things up for a living, tensions still being intensified as both sides are in check and Freedom of Navigation Patrols still taking place which keeps on reminding China over its claims.

On this day, July 12, marks the third anniversary of the release of the Arbitral Tribunal ruling which decided against the Chinese claims over its so-called nine-dash line. And from the date of that release up to this date, there is still little progress taking in so as for the Chinese to leave their claims up and adhere to the law. Rather, they keep on insisting the historical claims narrative by taking their actions on a higher level now with maritime militias operating on this highly-contested water which is a potential powder keg for a full conflict. 

The Philippines in this manner obtains the justification under international law to enforce the ruling on its own and to shoo China out of its Exclusive Economic Zone set by UNCLOS with its resources exclusively enjoyable for the Filipino citizens only. However, it still lacks the capability it needs to get the job done, rendering the perception that the ruling is nothing more than a waste given that China believes in the prime principle of might being the right among nations and seems the only type of language that they understand. 

The hopes of the ruling's relevance are still keeping up with the U.S. commitment over protecting the country under Mutual Defense Treaty given that the Philippines obtains troops over the Kalayaan Island Group that will provide that justification needed for deployment as well as the constant Freedom of Navigation Patrols that shows the determination of upholding the ruling up as it adheres to the norms of the International Law.

All that it takes now is to keep on checking the on-going developments being unraveled in the West Philippine Sea and hope for the best on what will it be for the country's economic development, food security, and most of all national security given that the proximities of the Chinese Artificial Islands are a threat to the national safety. To end this article up, let us quote some Latin adage for national defense: Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum. If you want peace, prepare for war.




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