Comprehensive History of the Philippine Navy
by Joselito Zulueta
The Archipelagic Imperative
The history of the Philippine Navy etches the evolution of maritime thinking among Filipinos. It is the chronicle of the rise of national consciousness on the importance of the seas that surround and traverse the scattered islands of the Philippines. It is the saga of a people coming to terms with the dire imperatives of the geography they have been born in, a geography they have been born in, a geography that is dictated not so much by land as it is by water, for better or for worse.
The story of the Philippine Navy is, in a sense therefore, the story of the nation itself. Although standard Filipino textbooks on geography and the social science include the cliché that the Philippines has a coastline longer than that of the United States, which has the worlds most powerful navy, there has been, perhaps even to this day only a token appreciation of the maritime pressures that come with having 12,500 nautical miles of coastline. The recognition has come belatedly because of the urgent environment and geopolitical challenges facing the countrys marine territory and its resources.
Why the recognition has come late is perplexing. To be sure, the Philippines has had a long history of occupation by foreign powers, all of them coming in from the maritime backdoor. Spain was the impregnable naval power of its day. It had to yield its last colonies like the Philippines to the United States in much the same way it had earlier shed off some measure of its military invincibility in the face of challenges by its imperialistic rivals: through a battle to the death on the seas.
The United States itself announced its johny-come-lately imperialistic intent by taking the high seas. Capt. Alfred Thayer Mahan developed the doctrine of the United States as a naval power, and the American leadership seemed to have agreed with him when it sent ships to fight Spain for a share of the worlds vanishing forest of colonies. Today, the US is unchallenged on the seas, its naval bases at home and abroad so positioned as to reflect its strategy of forward deployment and to project American power worldwide for both allies and foes.
Until recently, the Philippines hosted the biggest overseas naval facility of the US. But decades of playing innkeeper to American troops and ships seemed not to have significantly changed the deficient state of maritime consciousness in the country. The Filipinos have imbibed just about everything Americanfrom hamburgers to Hollywood moviesexcept maritime correctness.
Even at the height of American involvement in Vietnam, in which the Philippines played a not-so-paltry role in the US strategy of communist containment by hosting the US bases, there were still many Filipinos who took the sea for granted. And even after the retreat of the Americans from Vietnam and the beefing up of Cam Ranh Bay by the communists, Filipinos could afford to defer any sea-change in maritime thinking. Surprisingly, the basis for complacency was also the basis for alarm. Filipino leaders could point to the as reason for their confidence that nothing untoward was going to happen. 'We had the advantages of an insular country', recalls retired Rear Adm. Simeon M. Alejandro. 'There was wide span of water between Vietnam and the Philippines.'
Today, the statement of geographical fact should not be taken as a license for complacency.
In the first place, it is ironical that while two-third of the earths surface is covered by water, the oceans remain a daunting frontier for knowledge. The United Nations in fact has declared 1998 as the Year of the Ocean in order to urge people to deepen their understanding of the sea, specifically on how global weather patterns and other environmental phenomena are influenced by what goes under it. Filipinos should do no less in acquainting themselves with the seas around them. They should reflect on how the seas have played an important role in fashioning a nation that was the first in Asia to declare its independence from western colonialism. And they should reflect on how the seas will continue to play a significant role in the challenge of nation-building. The reckoning comes at a most propitious year, 1998: the Centennial of the Philippine Independence, the United Nations Year of the Ocean, and the Centennial of the Philippine Navy.
If theres one motif with which to explain the logic of Philippines history, it is the quest for unity amidst the barriers of culture and geography. But since the Philippines is an archipelagic country, it can be said that even cultural divisions have geographical determinants in them. In this respect, the country's archipelagic make-up and the difficulties of integrating the scattered islands to one sovereign unit, is not alone a political conundrum, it is also a maritime riddle.
Starting in the 1950s, the Philippines had insisted on the recognition of the archipelagic concept as part of public international law. The Philippines only managed to win recognition of the concept three decades later when the United Nation Convention on the Law of the Sea was signed. The Convention recognized an archipelago as an integrated unit in which 'the islands, waters and other natural features form an intrinsic geographical, economic and political entity.'
But it has been easier to get the archipelagic concept into the international statutes than to have its ramifications on naval defense and marine development be appreciated by Filipinos. This is puzzling considering a key lesson in history: the fate of the Philippines since time immemorial has always been closely linked with the sea.
The first Filipinos were Malay fisher, hunter and unsettled cultivators from Southeast Asia who came to be the islands in frail boats. Settling in the coastal areas, they traded regularly with merchant boats from China, Borneo and the Malay Peninsula. They themselves fitted their own ships and went on trading voyages across Southeast Asia.
The ancient Filipinos, particularly the Pintados, were known as coastal raiders during the early Spanish colonial era. The rode fast boats called "Kora-Kora" (capable of 15 knots), which can carry 200 warriors and up to six "Lantakas" or native cannons. They raided southern Chinese provinces and waged battle against Spanish forts and galleons which they out-speed by at least 9 knots. Moros also effectively used these boats agaisnt the Spanish colonial forces.
After Miguel Lopez de Legazpi sent Marshal Martin de Goiti to head the naval force that will capture Manila, Rajah Soliman assembled a fleet of warboats armed with cannons and other artillery pieces forged by Panday Pira. On June 3, 1571, Rajah Soliman's flotilla fought with the naval force of Marshal de Goiti at the north shore of Manila bay. It was a bloody battle and Rajah Soliman heroically died in battle called the Battle of Bangkusay. The outcome of the battle sealed the fate of Manila and made Rajah Soliman the country's first naval hero.
The marine factor was ever present in Spains long rule in the Philippines. Many times, Spains occupation was challenged by European power and just as many, Spain retained its hold on the colony through decisive naval engagements the against the invaders, some of the victories achieved in the face of great odds that were nothing short of miraculous. Spain also fortified towns to protect them from Muslim marauders who came on vessels of great maneuverability to kidnap Christians and sell them to the slave trade in the south. Spain also established shipyards where Filipinos showed an innate talent for shipbuilding. It carried out the famed and profitable galleon trade between Manila and Acapulco that opened the Philippines to the world and many of its modern ideas that sowed the seeds of nationalism and independence among educated Filipinos.
It is not surprising then that the first Filipino that is , the first one to have ever conceived of Filipino nationhood was also student of seapower. Jose Rizal (1861-1896) grew up in the lakeshore town of Calamba in Laguna de Bay, the countrys largest lake. True to his beginnings, Rizal opened his second novel El Filibusterismo with a scene in a steamship navigating its way in the Pasig River toward Laguna.
Rizal seems also the first Filipino to have recognized the crucial part a navy plays in uniting the islands. He established the short-lived La Liga Filipina exactly to unite Filipinos scattered over the archipelago into one, homogenous body. Apparently taking heed from the admonition of his European friend Ferdinand Blumentritt that an insurrection without a navy would not succeed considering the Philippines' insular character, Rizal rejected an armed rising as contemplated by the Katipunan, calling it premature.
He probably had never personally met Rizal, but Emilio Aguinaldo (1869-1964) of Cavite shared Rizals view on the need to unify the islands though a working navy. Like Rizal, Aguinaldo was a Tagalog, the abbreviated from of taga-ilog, river denizen. He also evolved appreciation of seapower because he was born in province that hosted a big Spanish naval base.
We do not know if he also agreed with Rizal that a revolution was premature at that time, but the fact is that Aguinaldo joined the Katipunan. When the secret society was discovered by authorities, he took to the battlefront despite the movements poor arms and general unpreparedness. Although Aguinaldo won most of his battles on land, he came around early to the conclusion that the Filipino nation could not be properly called so without a navy to bridge the wide divide of cultures owing to the islands unique to topography.
Aguinaldos recognition of the naval factor is illustrated in the Biak-na-Bato Constitution (framed in 1897 in San Miguel, Bulacan) that called for Philippine separation from Spain and envisioned the creation of a Supreme Consisting of the President, vice-president, secretary of foreign affairs, secretary of war , secretary of interior and secretary of finance. Among others, the council was authorized to organize 'privateering and issue letters of marque and reprisals'. This meant that the government could license privately owned and operated vessel to prey upon enemy vessels, in this case, Spanish ship, for the prosecution of the war.
The English version of the BiaknaBato constitution apparently done during Aguinaldos exile in Hong Kong after the signing of the truce with the Spaniards, clearly showed his intent of forming a navy. Mention is made of a navy to be created 'when the necessary army is organized for the protection of the coasts of the Philippine archipelago and its seas; then a secretary of the navy shall be appointed and the duties of his office added to this Constitution'. President Aguinaldo appointed Senor Pascual V. Ledesma, a merchant marine master, the Director of the Navy with the rank of General.
In appears then that his Hong Kong exile afforded Aguinaldo a keener appreciation of the marine factor. In fact, Aguinaldo used the reprieve to buy arms and equipment for the revolution. One of the orders he made was for a 'motor launch to be used as a nucleus of an interisland transport system.' In order to hasten the movement of his troops and to expand the Revolution beyond the Tagalog Region.
The recognition came also because of an exigency. The United States had declared war on Spain over the controversial Maine episode in Cuba. In fact, upon reaching Hong Kong, where the US naval force was passing en route to Manila, Aguinaldo was requested for a conference by US officials and asked to return to the Philippine to resume the war of independence against Spain.
Meanwhile, Commodore George Dewey had defeated the Spanish force led by Adm. Patricio Montojo on Manila Bay on May 1, 1898. On May 19, Aguinaldo arrived in Cavite on board the American vessel McCulloch and conferred later with Dewey aboard the Olympia. Dewey had known fully well he did not have enough forces to capture Manila and he needed Aguinaldos help to keep the arrival of American reinforcements. And so Dewey assured Aguinaldo of American support and handed over to him the small steam pinnace of the Spanish man-of-war Reina Cristina, Adm. Montojos flagship.
The vessel was quickly name Magdalo in honor of Aguinaldo. On May 20, 1898 Aguinaldo had the Philippine flag hoisted on the ship which was allowed by the Americans on Manila Bay to sail from coast to coast. Thus the Magdalo became the first vessel of the Revolutionary Navy and probably the bearer of the Philippine flag, antedating even the flags first exhibit and proclamation as official symbol of the nation on June 12, 1898, when Aguinaldo formally declared Philippine Independence. Aguinaldo began to form a navy that would be used to strengthen the revolutionary cause. Wealthy nationalist relinquished their merchant steamboats to this navy, to be fitted with weapons. The Revolutionary Navy spread the nationalist fire to the countryside, engaging Spanish forces in battle, delivering ammunition to land forces and collecting funds for the cause and establishing inter-island communications. But the Americans later recanted their promise of support to the revolutionarist, with Spain ceding the country to America. The Americans took over and immobilized the Revolutionary navy. The pioneering sailors, brought their fight to the countryside until the formal surrender of the Revolutionary government.
The Short-lived National Navy
One can make important readings cosmic geopolitical of Deweys act of handing Aguinaldo the first vessel of the insurgent navy. Although Aguinaldo was not naïve and was forever evaluating American intentions on the Philippines, he must have known he was playing with fire in drafting American support to the independence movement. That Dewey had to repeatedly urge Aguinaldo to go back to his men and 'not to give up' the war now sounds like a Mephistophelean temptation, with Aguinaldo striking the classic Faustian bargain in asking for US support to the Revolution. And if he were giving the American the benefit of the doubt, was the pinnace that he cloaking its planters dark intent owes to its incorrigibility.
But the American advance to the Philippines was not surprising. Like the Spaniards centuries before them, the Americans had to wrest the Philippines through naval means.
For the moment, however, Aguinaldo had his nascent navy consisting of the Magdalo and other steam launches captured from the Spaniards. Refitted for war, these vessels would help the revolutionary cause by moving troops, arms and supplies to distant provinces. To be sure, they play a decisive role in the insurgency as, for example, in the raid on Bacoor Bay against the Spanish garrison and the Spanish powder magazine, which naval historians now call the first amphibious assault of the Revolutionary Navy.
The fleet was reinforced by merchant ship such as the Taaleño, Balayan and Purisima Conception that had been donated to the insurgent forces. Another key addition was the Compania de Filipinas, the 800-ton Spanish steamer belonging to the Compania General de Tabacos. The vessel had been seized by a mutinous, largely Filipino crew under the fiery Cuban-Spanish Vicente Catalan who hoisted the Filipino flag and proclaimed himself 'Admiral of the Filipino Navy.' In July 5,1898, Adm. Catalan with his Filipino sailors helped seize Subic Bay. The mutiny and seizure of the ship became an international cause when the Germans objected to the Filipino flag and the French demanded the ships return to them, claiming they actually owned it.
Despite the diplomatic backlash from foreign power, the international incident drew attention to the increasingly aggressive campaign of the Filipino to oust the Spaniards and establish an independent republic.
For his part, Aguinaldo tirelessly pursued the unification of the islands under the revolutionary government by deploying the naval fleet to various parts of the country to engage the Spanish force and rally Filipinos behind the insurgency. The expeditions became virtual caravans for independence and fires of nationhood to every part of the archipelago. No more could it be said that the movement for independence that was started by the Katipunan was merely confined to the Tagalogs.
Aguinldos military successes and the widening swathe of territory being won by the insurgents buttressed the June 12 declaration of independence. On June 23, he decreed the establishment of a revolutionary government, which created the Department of Foreign Relations with the bureaus of diplomacy, navy and commerce under it. But he delayed the organization of the navy and commerce bureaus in order to concentrate on diplomacy and to win over the power into recognizing Philippine belligerency.
But as tension with the Americans grew following the fall of Manila on August 13, Aguinaldo created the Bureau of Navy on September 26 and appointed Pascual Ledesma as its first director. The Navy was strengthened by the Malolos Constitution that was passed on January 21, 1899 which made the President of the Republic the commander in chief of the army and the navy, and transferred the Bureau of navy to the Department of War, which thereby became the Department of War and Navy.
So successful was the Revolutionary Navy in Prosecuting the war against Spain that, ironically enough, Aguinaldo paved the way for the swift American conquest of the islands. One American observer years later would write that the Filipino forces so successful in their war against Spain that 'the only job for them (the Americans) was the capture of Manila.'
Predictably enough, Deweys first acts of provocation were navy-inspired. In October 1898 he started confiscating steamers and launches flying the Filipino flag. There followed a naval blockade to limit further operations of Aguinaldos forces.
The decimation of the Revolutionary Navy was the beginning of the end for the independence movement. Superior American forces eased out the poorly financed and ill-equipped Filipino troops from the positions they had won from Spain. Aguinaldo turned to guerrilla warfare, but he was in constant flight until he was captured in Palanan, Isabela in 1901.
With their hope of independence extinguished by the Americans, Aguinaldos dream of a nation, unified by a strong navy, was shattered.
Naval Defense Doctrine
The consolation seems to have been that Filipino maritime skills were developed during the American era.
Even when the insurgents were still carrying out their guerrilla war, the Americans created the Bureau of Coast Guard and Transportation for the maintenance of peace and order, the transportation of constabulary troops, and the guarding of the coastline against smuggling. Many Filipino seamen were integrated in the bureau and others were employed in other naval-related divisions of agencies such as the Bureau of Customs and Immigration, Bureau of Island and Inter-island Transportation, Bureau of Coast and Geodetic Survey, and Bureau of Lighthouses.
Earlier, the Americans had reopened the Escuela Nautica de Manila (later renamed Philippine Nautical School) where Annapolis methods were gradually introduced. Annapolis itself accepted its first Filipino recruit in 1919. Filipinos were also enlisted to the US navy, as they had been before to the Spanish navy.
As a result, Filipinos began to imbibe the American naval tradition. They also learned US naval doctrine which today a great grandson of Emilio Aguinaldo, Annapolis-trained Lt. Joseph Abaya of the Philippine Navy describes as 'power projection, projecting the flag as something intrinsic to the navy mission'.
The making of the naval defense doctrine seem to have been carried out in earnest during the Commonwealth Government. But since war clouds had started to appear at that time due to the first stirrings of Japanese expansionism, the Commonwealth Government of Manuel L. Quezon started office on frayed nerves, rushing the passage of a national defense bill to ensure the security of the country. Drawn up by Gen. Douglas MacArthur, who had been named military adviser to the Commonwealth by Quezon, the national defense plan was quickly adopted by Congress and signed by the President, but not after being subjected to the crucible of public debate which revolved mainly around its alleged poor insights on Philippine naval defense requirements.
MacArthurs defense plan, which became Commonwealth Act No. 1, called for the establishment of the Philippine Army. But it seems to have discounted the critical need to have an effective air force and navy in order to ward off invaders even before they touch land. Although the plan called for the formation of an 'off-shore patrol' (composed of high-speed, torpedo-launching craft) as the marine division of the Army, it formed mainly from the ranks of reservists.
The creation of the OSP was an offshoot of a news report that a 'mystery flotilla' was sighted conducting maneuvers off Davao Gulf on April 10, 1938. Acting on the news report, President Quezon ordered on the creation of the Off Shore Patrol (OSP) in February 9, 1939 as a unit of the Philippine Army, which was headquartered at Muelle del Codo, Port Area. In 1937, MacArthur asked the US Navy if they could provide MTBs and since they had none, negotiations were made with V. Thornycroft Inc, England. On April 15, 1938 when Thornycroft started construction of the initial two MTBs, Maj. Rafael Ramos, a Nautical School graduate known personally by Quezon was designated the first Chief, OSP to recruit personnel. On June 18, Lt. Jose Andrada, USNA '31 replaced Maj. Ramos who was sent to US Army School to later head the Quartermaster service. Capt. Andrada recruited two Annapolis graduates, Lt. Alfredo Peckson, USNA '33 and Lt. Marcelo Castillo, USNA '38 and seven PMA graduates by the end of 1938. The first MTB was named Q-112 "Abra" arrived March 1939 and the second later known as Q-111 "Luzon" on June 1939. As WW II started in Europe in 1939, arrangements were made with Thornycroft Inc., to provide the engine for the local building of the hull by the Engineer Island. In 1940, two more US Navy and seven PMA graduates joined the OSP and on March 1941 the locally made MTB by Engr. Bernardo Abrera was completed and successfully tested and named Q-113 "Agusan", and the keels of the next 8 Q-boats were laid. For the next six months, intensive training aboard the Q-Boats were held, permanent officers and crew were selected and the 1st Q-Boat Squadron was organized while war clouds were starting to gather. On September 1941, USN PT RON 3 under Lt. J D Bulkeley composed of six Patrol (PT) Boats arrived in Manila. The Q-Boats and PT Boats conducted joint training on October to November 1941. On Dec 4, 1941, Capt. Enrique L Jurado USNA '34 relieved Maj. Andrada as Chief, OSP. Andrada was assigned to command the Coast Artillery Battalion at Fort Wint.
Critics of the plan were not impressed. Joseph Ralston Hayden, the vice-governor general, disagreed that the motor boat patrol and army bombers would be able to deny the use of territorial waters to hostile surface craft. 'That a relatively small fleet of armed speed boats would be a serious problem for the Japanese navy is, at least, doubtful', he said, adding that such craft could not operate effectively in rough waters. Most important, the plan, according to Hayden, disregarded the possibility of a worthy strategic naval defense for an archipelagic country. He said, 'The main coastline of Luzon could logically repulse any external force, but the remaining two-thirds of the archipelago, considering its inadequate defense, would be predisposed to easy predatory attacks.'
Camilo Osias of the National Assembly summed up the critique on the MacArthur-Quezon defense plan. 'In order to have adequate national defense.' he said, 'you must have defense ashore, afloat and aloft.'
When War broke out in the pacific, on December 8, 1941, this fledging fleet, composed of fast and highly maneuverable motor torpedo boats known as Q-boats, was committed against the Japanese Imperial Navy. Undaunted by enemy superiority, the ubiquitous patrol boats fought with zeal, courage and heroism hitting Japanese warships with torpedoes when given the opportunity. One legendary feat recounts an attack by nine Japanese planes on a single Q-boat out at sea. Instead of retreating, the Q-boat fought back with accurate fire downing three enemy planes in the process.
Because of its intrepid and successful raids on enemy ships, the squadron was dubbed the 'Mosquito Fleet' mainly because of its minuscule size and its capability to attack with a deadly sting. The squadron relied on speed and surprise to attack larger vessels at close range. As a result, 65% of its men were awarded the Silver Star Medal and other decorations for gallantry in action. This is a heroic legacy that the Philippine Fleet cherishes, perpetuates and lives by to this day and onward.
After the war, the OSP was redesignated as Philippine Naval Patrol (PNP) on October 24, 1947 pursuant to GO number 228 issued by then Gen. Jalandoni. Under this reorganization law of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Philippine Naval Patrol was elevated as one of its major command. After ironing out every detail of the reorganization as mandated by the Executive order, the Philippine naval Patrol was formally organized on June 2, 1948. Col. Jose V. Andrada was designated as commander, Philippine Naval Patrol. This title of his rank was later changed to Navy Captain, by authority of Sec 18 of Executive Order Number 94. The Philippine Navy Patrol expanded with the integration of Marine Battalion, Underwater operations Unit, and Naval Air Unit to the Command. As it acquired bigger patrol and transport ships, the Patrol Force and the Service Force was also created, . Then pursuant to Executive Order Number 389 dated December 23, 1950, the Armed Forces of the Philippines were reorganized into four major commands.
President Elpidio Quirino followed through the naval organizational reforms of Roxas. On January 5, 1951, he issued Executive order No. 389 designating the Philippine Naval Patrol as the Philippine Navy to be composed of 'all naval forces, combat vessels, auxiliary craft, naval air craft, shore installations supporting units necessary to carry out all the functions of the services.'
Even before Quirino signed the order recasting the Naval Patrol into the Philippine Navy, his defense secretary, Ramon Magsaysay, had formed a Marine batallion in 1950 as a unit of the Naval Patrol to carry out amphibious attacks on the Hukbalahap (Huk) communist guerillas in the coast, as well as to strike out against lawless elements. Their baptism of fire came in 1951 in Nueva Ecija when they overwhelmed a Huk camp. Three years later, the backbone of the Huk movement was destroyed. The Philippine Marines became known then as a formidable seaborne, counter-insurgency force.
The decade that followed the Navys establishment as a major service of the Armed Forces saw it develop into an increasingly complex organization. Aside from the Marines, there emerged the Naval Shore Establishment, Naval Operating Forces, Philippine Coast Guard, Home Defense Command, the Military Sealift and Terminal Command and other major units of the service.
By the 1960s, the Philippine Navy was the envy of the region. Although the naval fleet consisted mostly of Second World War hand-me-downs from the US Navy, it was stillin the 1960srelatively young, having been only around for two decades. The nascent nation-states in the region were only beginning to form their own navies and often looked to the Philippines for inspiration and guidance in maritime defense (for example, Indonesia signed a joint patrol agreement with the Philippines in 1961).
Although the Philippines at that time could look at the world as a horizon that had its share of promises as well as threats for a young maritime nation like itself, it could never have anticipated that the principal dynamic that would turn back its naval-defense development would be a series of internal conflicts and political crises that would not only make its strategic defense considerations shift even more inward, but also impair and lay to waste whatever defense system it had put up to deal primarily with external threats.
The need to quell the communist insurgency and the secessionist movement in Mindanao forced the government to put a premium on strengthening the ground-force capability of the Armed Forces. Vice Adm. Eduardo Ma. R. Santos, one of the past FOICs, points out that for more than 20 years the Navys defense operations were confined to 'blockage, naval gunfire support, and moving troops' in and out of far-flung combat zones.
Aggravating the damage inflicted by these armed conflicts were the political crises stemming from declaration of martial law in 1972 by President Ferdinand Marcos and his establishment of 'constitutional authoritarianism. This gave rise to pro-democracy challenges to his rule, leading to the assassination of his political oppositionist Benigno Aquino Jr. that compounded the collapse of the economy in 1983, and of the Marcos government itself in 1986. there followed aborted military putsches on the shaky democratic government of his successor, Corazon Aquino, severely disabling if not destroying whatever surviving defense materiel the Philippine still had at around that time.
By the times things were simmering down to a semblance of peace and quite in the early 1990s, the American naval and air forces, stung by the Philippine Senates rejection of a treaty that would have prolonged their stay in the Philippines, were leaving in a huff. Suddenly, the Philippines saw its 'surrogate' navy and air force heading for gates of Subic and Clark, leaving the resident highly anxious about its national defense.
Retired Commo. Jose Francisco sums up the state of mind of the Navyand perhaps the rest of the Armed Forcesafter the American withdrawal: 'All throughout the years the Americans were here, we had the military assistance agreement with them and logistical support from them, and all that the Philippine government had to do was pay our salaries. What happened was that we had indigestion. We knew it would not last, but when it did end, we were at a loss.'
The American withdrawal is now largely seen as the inevitable and natural consequence of the end of the Cold War and the close of bipolarism following the collapse of worldwide communism. The caveat is that it may have also resulted in a security vacuum in a region where tensions owing to deep-seated historic animosities and geopolitical disputes remain rife, a vacuum that may be filled up by next-in line powers. The pull-out has also drawn renewed attention to Asian flashpoints, such as the Korean Peninsula and the Spratlys, that could bring nations into open conflict in the future.
These developments hastened the passage of the AFP Modernization Law in 1995. The law remains to this day the best hope of ever realizing a credible naval force for the Philippines.
Modernization is also expected to greatly enhance the Navys capacity to fulfill certain non-traditional tasks it has to take on as a result of recent developments.
For example, the heightened consciousness on the need to protect the natural environment has enjoined the Navy to perform a more aggressive role in protecting the countrys extensive marine ecology. Moreover, the full implications of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas, which the Philippines signed in 1982, have only lately been appreciated. While the convention has put in check the Philippines historic territorial sea, it has also provided the country a 200-mile belt around the archipelago known as the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
But the windfall comes with a price: the pressure that will be brought to bear on security and defense as a result of more areas added to the national territory. The convention, in fact, allows innocent passage and archipelagic sealane passage which can be exploited by the unscrupulous and unfriendly elements to exploit the countrys resources or denigrate Philippine sovereignty. A dispute with Taiwan in 1991 over the 'innocent passage' of Taiwanese vessels in fish-rich areas in the north and northeast was just a variation of the security challenges that the convention poses on the Philippines. That dispute was settled because of the sincerity of both governments. Other states may not be as straightforward as Taiwan.
These recent development should provide guideposts for the Philippine Navy in the coming years. Perhaps, they augur for a future that will see a closer welding of the fortunes of the Navy and the nation as a whole. Depending on the degree on which government comes to terms with the countrys marine realities and pursues the modernization of the Navy, the nation may ascend and falter, like the surge and ebb of waves that surround maritime Philippines, like the rise and fall that characterize much of history.
Naval Operating Forces/ Naval Defense Forces
On August 20, 1960, with the expansion of the Philippine Navy Organization, the Naval Operating Forces was activated as a major unit pursuant to HPN GO Number 14 to become the main fighting arm of the Philippine Navy. Units as well as their missions absorbed by the Naval Operating Forces and the Service Force (later deactivated on March 16, 1963), together with the marine Battalion, Underwater Operations UNIT, Naval Air Unit, and Small Craft Unit. The first commander was Capt. Juan Magluyan, PN (GSC).
Through the years, the Naval Operating Forces grew and expanded with the acquisition of more vessels of various types. The Fleet underwent several reorganizations as the missions varied. New units were added such as the Anti-Submarine Force, the reactivated Service Force, Coast Guard Force, Mine Force and Ready Force.
A year after the declaration of Martial Law in 1972, the Ready Force and the Marine Battalion were separated from the Naval Operating Forces. These became major units of the Philippine Navy.
On April 22, 1976, the Naval Operating Force (NOF) became the Naval Defense Forces (NDF) with Capt. Leonardo G. Bugayong PN (GSC) as its first commander. A complete revamp of the organization set-up of the Naval Defense Forces was undertaken in order to make it more responsive to its new mission and to meet the increasing requirements of the new PN command.
An offshoot of the organization was the adoption of the Type Command concept, which called for the activation of three major units the Patrol Escort Force, the Service Force and the Special Operation Force (SOF). The SOF took under the command the Small Craft Squadron and the Underwater Operations Group, which later became a Naval Craft Force and Naval Special Warfare Group respectively. Under this new set-up, the following units were also subsequently activated. Naval Air Group, Service Support Group, Material Support Group and Maintenance repair Group. On the other hand, on April 22, 1976 the Amphibious Strike Group was activated and under the operational control of Ready force 9a special unit under FOIC, PN)
The turnover of the US Naval Station, Sangley point to the Philippine government on September 10, 1971 precipitated the birth of the sea-lift-Amphibious Command. Its operation was an offshoot of the expansion of the Philippine Navy and its increasing mandate in its socio-economic development program through transport and sealift missions.
The forerunner of Sealift-amphibious Command (SAC) was the AFP Terminal Command (AFPTC), which was activated on January 9, 1972 serving as the logistic support base of the AFP under the administrative and operational control of theft Logistics Center. On June 6, 1972 the Chief of Staff Gen. Romeo C. Espino AFP transferring the administrative and operational control of AFPTC to AFP Logistics Center to the Philippine Navy issued General Orders number 561. As a result several transport vessels of the navy were assigned to the unit thereby expanding transport capability.
On December 5, 1973, pursuant to GO Number 133 HPN, the Command was reorganized and subsequently renamed the Military Sealift and Terminal Command (MSTC) as one major unit of the Philippine Navy. Later the Command was designated as the Sea lift-Amphibious Command after all amphibious vessels and crafts of the then Naval Operating Forces were transferred to Military Sealift Terminal command on July 1, 1976.
The Philippine Fleet Today
On March 1, 1988, the Naval Defense Forces (NDF) and the Sealift-Amphibious Command (SAC) were merged as one command. All the personnel, equipment and facilities of the two deactivated units were transferred and assigned to Philippine Fleet. Its Headquarters was set up at the former Sealift-Amphibious Command Headquarters at Naval Base Cavite, Sangley Point, Cavite City. Commo. Juanito Cortez, AFP was designated as the first commander.
The reorganized Philippine Fleet meet bigger challenges as well as to enable it to perform more effectively its role in naval defense and in support to national development efforts.
Today, as a type command, the Fleet has major units, namely: the Ready Force, Patrol Force, Service Force and Fleet
Support Group and special units, Naval Air Group, Naval Special Warfare Group and Fleet Training Group.
The Philippine Fleet's mission is to prepare and operate assigned forces for naval operations in order to support the PN accomplish its mission. Its general objectives are to optimize operational readiness and combat effectiveness of equipment and personnel and effectively manage available resources through efficient internal administration.
The specific functions of the Fleet are, first, to provide assets that will conduct continuous naval patrol, sea control and amphibious operations in order to defend the sovereignty of the country, its territorial waters and EEZ from foreign aggression, intrusion and exploitation. second, to assist in the conduct of national security operations and ensure safety and security of coastal areas. third, to employ assets to assist in the conduct of disaster response, particularly maritime search and rescue and patrol, sealift and other type of operations as directed.
Fleet assets were able to detect and apprehend numerous lawless elements engaging in illegal maritime activities. These operations were conducted while vessels and aircraft were enroute to their designated Area of Operations and while still under the OPCON of PHILFLT. And to include some of its recent accomplishments are as follows:
1. Conducted and participated in search and rescue operation on M/V Princess of the Orient when it sank at vicinity of Carabao Island last September 1998.
2. Conducted search and rescue operation for ill-fated PAF Nomad aircraft carrying COMWESCOM and party last July 3, 2000.
3. The Fleet organized an Amphibious Task Force (ATF), composed of Transport and Patrol ships, Patrol Gunboats, aircraft and NSWG Teams to undertake amphibious operations in order to rescue the hostages of the Abu sayyaf Group (ASG)
4. The fleet ably supported the Joint Task Force Trident by deploying assets to support the conduct of Maritime negation and Patrol particularly in the island of Jolo.
5. Planned and executed all major activities in connection with the retirement of VADM FERNANDEZ AFP to witness the commissioning of PG-395, Testimonial Parade and Thanksgiving Night last November 20, 2000.
The Fleet has greatly contributed in the Navy firm commitments in promoting regional security through the conduct of Bilateral Exercises with the US, Indonesia and Malaysia navies and PASSEXes with the other visiting foreign navies. Among the notable Bilateral Exercises conducted are as follows:
1. CARAT '98, with USS mobile Bay on August 5, 1998.
2. CARAT '99 participated by PS37, PS-31, PG-392, DF-342 and PNI-304 from May 3 to June 1, 1999.
3. PASSEX with the Royal Thai Navy in 1998
4. PASSEX with the US Mobile bay in 1998.
5. PN International Korean Fleet review, 1998.
6. PALAH 01-'99 participated by four officers and twenty enlisted personnel from the NSWG and its USN personnel counterpart from May 3-21, 1999.
7. MARSURVEX with USN P-3C Orion aircraft participated PNI-304 and PAF OV-10 on June 1, 1999.
8. RANFCPKAKADU 4'99 participated by PS-17 and IC550 at Darwin, Australia from July 20 to August 13, 1999.
9. Joint RP-US Military Training Exercise (BALIKATAN 2000) from February 21, to March 4, 2000.
10. CARAT 2000 from June 13-20, 2000
11. Exercise LUMBAS from September 1522, 2000.
12. MARSURVEX from September 25-29, 2000.
13. MALPHILAUT3/2000 from November 1322, 2000.
14. Flshpiston from August 4-25, 2000.
15. CORPAT PHILINDO from October 914, 2000
16. PN-USN PALAH 04-02, participated in by 35 PN and 20 US personnel at Zamboanga and Davao on February 16 to March 6, 2004
17. RP-US Maritime Surveillance Exercises (MARSURVEX 04-2), participated by 89 PN personnel, one patrol ship, one patrol gun boat, one PNARU vessel as target vessel, one PN Islander Aircraft and one SEAL Team and 21 US personnel, at Luzon Sea, Zambales on February 9-12 2004.
18. RP-US Balikatan '04, participated in by 2,196 RP and 2,033 US personnel at Puerto Princesa, Palawan; Fort Magsaysay; Clarkfield, Pampangga; Crow Valley; Capas,Tarlac; Ternate; and Basco, Batanes on February 23 to March 7, 2004.
19. SEA Cooperation Against Terrorism Exercise 2004 (SEACAT 04), participated in by two PN personnel held from Japan to Singapore on May 24-28, 2004.
20. PN-US Maritime/Navy-Royal Thai Navy Maritime/Sea Surveillance Exercise, participated in by four PN personnel at Thailand on May 10-15, 2004.
21. 2nd Western Pacific Naval Symposium (WPNS) Mine Countermeasure (MCMEX) and Dive Exercise (DIVEX), participated in by six PN personnel at Singapore on April 25 to May 8, 2004.
The Fleet also emphasized the value of ship and crew readiness by providing support during the conduct of the following:
- Naval-Air exercise 'Pagluwas '98.'
- Air-Naval-Ground exercise 'Pagsanay '98.'
- JFTX (SANGHAYA99) participated by LT516, DF-339, PNI-323 and one officer and seven enlisted personnel from NSWG.
- Boat Handling Exercise of 143rd NOQC 'B' using DF-339 from July 0709, 1999 at Manila Bay.
- PAGSASAMA99 1 Exercise participated by PS-70, PS-19 and PG-104 at Bohol and Cebu on August 5, 1999.
- GUNNEX participated by PS-70, PS-31, PG-102, PG-381, PG-393, LC-551 (viewing flatform), DF-321 and DF-340 (marshal craft) on August 13, 1999.
- In-service Training/OJT of PMA CL 99 Midshipmen from December 14, 1998 to February 7, 1999.
- Sea Phase Training of 143rd NOQC 'B' from January 19, to February 1, 1999.
- Sea phase Training of 198th BSC from March 01-07, 1999 (1st Batch) and March 08-13, 1999 (2nd Batch).
- Summer Shipboard Training of 179 PMM from April 19-20, 1999
- Summer Shipboard Training og NS-43 Midshipmen from April 7, to June 4, 1999.
- Fleet Training Cruise from October 2 to November 3, 2000.
- Fleet Exercise Pagsisikap, participated in by 376 PN personnel on June 14-23, 2004
The AFP also continues to provide security to Malampaya Natural Gas Plant, two PN patrol vessels are stationed on a 24 hour basis throughout the year at the Exclusion Zone to secure the platform. To implement national defense policy in the Kalayaan Island Group (KIG) and to protect the country's EEZ, the PN in 1998, had conducted 1,907 naval patrols covering 23,331.89 hours of steaming time and 143,307.88 nm. Thi led to eight apprehensions involving 11 vessels and 57 nationals accused of illegal entry and engaged in illegal fishing. A total of P1.7-M worth of goods were confiscated during the operations. In 2004, the PN patrol missions sighted two vessels and the apprehension of 1 Chinese fishing boat and 2 Chinese Nationals. Further, there were 144 Chinese fishing boats, 121 Vietnamese fishing vessels and 9 Vietnamese Cargo ships anchorage recorded for the first semester of 2004.
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