LOOK: Navy shows off capabilities, assets in 1st fleet review in 20 years
For the first time in 20 years, the Philippine Navy showcased its capabilities and assets during its 120th anniversary celebration on Tuesday at Coconut Palace in Manila.
“I consider today’s event as historic and momentous because we will showcase your Navy’s capability through a fleet review that will also highlight the Fleet-Marine amphibious strength,” said Vice Adm. Robert Empedrad, Navy flag officer in command.
The last time the Navy held a fleet review was in 1998.
President Rodrigo Duterte, the guest of honor and the military’s commander in chief, witnessed as some of the air and naval assets of the Navy gathered at the anniversary venue facing Manila Bay.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana also attended the event.
The Naval Special Operations Group and the Marines Special Operations Group staged a simulation firefight between “friendly and enemy forces,” aimed at displaying the “fusion of skills of Philippine Navy personnel and reliable and cutting-edge assets in action.”
Empedrad admitted that the Navy was still “too far behind” compared to those of neighboring countries in the region, but they were in the process of modernizing the organization.
“After the war, the Philippine Navy is one of the most powerful navies in the Asian region,” he said. “However, six decades later, we are one of the weakest even in Southeast Asian region. Maritime nations like Malaysia, Indonesia, Japan, Singapore and even Vietnam and Myanmar, have upgraded their naval capability while the Philippine Navy went to obsolescence.”
It was only last month when the Navy had its first short-range missile system acquired from Israel. This will be fitted to the local multipurpose attack craft and will be operational by July.
Among the assets expected by the Navy are two anti-submarine warfare helicopters with torpedoes and two missile-capable frigates in 2020.
“I believe we are slowly regaining our maritime character as a nation and our vision of ‘becoming a strong and credible Navy that our maritime nation Philippines will be proud of by year 2020’ is very well crafted,” Empedrad said.
The Philippines has been struggling to modernize its military in recent years as it faces several domestic and territorial security threats, including the maritime dispute in the South China Sea.
Duterte: One day, we will invade other nations
In his speech before the Navy’s top brass, the President joked that it would be the Philippines invading other nations a hundred years from now.
“I therefore ask each of you to do your part so that in the next 120 years we can establish a naval force that will last a lifetime and maybe we can start invading other nations,” he said.
While he urged the Navy to continue “defending our sovereignty in our territorial waters,” he said he couldn’t put up a fight with China over the South China Sea dispute, as it would only result in violence.
The government has been criticized for its “defeatist” stance over the maritime dispute, in favor of economic opportunities from China.
Duterte also put aside the arbitral ruling that invalidated China’s nine-dash-line claims in the South China Sea. /atm
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