One often-cited requirement for the country to protect national sovereignty and territorial integrity is for us to achieve a credible defense posture.
But what does having a credible defense posture entail?
This means having a military big enough to match or even surpass the manpower, firepower, facilities and equipment of other countries.
In our case, we should have an army, navy, air force, coast guard and marines, not to mention a police force and reservists, capable of defending our shores from any foreign invader.
The problem, however, is that a credible defense posture requires a gargantuan capital outlay from the national budget drawn from people’s taxes.
Not just in the hundreds of billions of pesos but even in trillions over a certain period of time.
Spending billions, even trillions for sophisticated missile systems, jet fighters, advanced naval vessels while millions of Filipinos still wallow in abject poverty is untenable and perhaps even morally objectionable.
What we need at this point is to create more jobs, build adequate economic and social infrastructure and strengthen political institutions to reduce poverty, propel sustained economic growth, and ensure social harmony.
But it’s really a matter of priorities that the national leadership should be able to determine.
The next best thing at this point to enhance our defense capabilities is to forge closer ties with friendly countries through bilateral and multilateral security pacts that will allow us to train our military in warfare in the modern setting using the latest technology.
We already have the Mutual Defense Treaty with the U.S. that Washington says is an “ironclad” guarantee that they will come to our defense if we’re attacked by another country.
But we cannot completely rely on the U.S. for our own defense; we should be able to harness the resources of other countries in the region to deter any foreign invasion.
One such defense collaboration is the annual joint military exercises with the U.S. called “Balikatan” or “shoulder-to-shoulder” that will run from April 11 to 28 and involve 12,000 US soldiers and 5,000 Filipino troops.
Australia will send about a hundred soldiers, while allied countries will join as observers. The activities will be held across northern Luzon, Palawan and Antique provinces.
What’s significant about this year’s largest joint military exercise is that the participants will sink with state-of-the art artillery systems a target of an old fishing vessel near Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal in the West Philippine Sea.
This is a symbolic act that no doubt our closest neighbor to the west will be watching with more than passing interest.