Now that the Supreme Court has upheld the legality of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), it is now incumbent on the government to ensure that the Armed Forces will become fully modernized in terms of war materiel and equipment before President Noynoy Aquino bows out of office on June 30.
This is how Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) Congressman Win Gatchalian views the high court’s ruling on the constitutionality of EDCA as he urged the Aquino administration to use the EDCA as to its advantage in terms of securing additional war ships and patrol boats from the United States government.
“It’s about time that the AFP upgrade its air and naval assets so that frequent surveillance of the contested islands in the West Philippine Sea can be conducted. It’s really lamentable that our country lags behind in terms of modern planes and ships compared to other claimant nations in the Spratlys,” Gatchalian pointed out.
The Valenzuela City representative deplored that the Armed Forces presently does not have enough aircraft to conduct regular patrols in the West Philippines Sea and the few planes that the AFP have are not even fitted with basic surface and air surveillance radar.
“If and when our AFP becomes modernized in terms of state-of-the-art tanks, fighter jets and war ships, we are sure that our Army, Air Force and Navy will be one of the best in this part of Asia. Most importantly, we can defend our vast territorial waters from foreign incursions” said Gatchalian, a majority member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
While Gatchalian maintains that modern equipment is needed to make an Army the best it can be, the most important component remains to be the soldiers themselves since they will be the ones using the top of the line firearms and war materiel.
“Without proper training, high morale and patriotism, no amount of modern weapons can make our soldiers the best that they can be,” Gatchalian pointed out.
Gatchalian has been pushing for the revival of the Reserved Offices Training Corps (ROTC) as a means of inculcating in the youth patriotism and nationalism in the wake of renewed activities of the Chinese military in the West Philippine Sea.
While the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) remains to be the premier military school for future officers and generals of the AFP, the ROTC is also a major source of officers particularly for the Philippine Army.
Gatchalian said making ROTC mandatory for all male students enrolled in colleges, universities, and technical or vocational schools is in line with the Constitutional provision which states that “the Government may call upon the people to defend the State and, in fulfilment thereof, all citizens may be required, under conditions provided by law, to render personal, military or civil service.”
“The ROTC program will bolster confidence in our military preparedness and capability while at the same time provide our country with support from student-cadet reservists and potential commissioned officers,” Gatchalian said.
Under House Bill No. 2338, Gatchalian wants the ROTC to form part of the curriculum of all college degree courses as well as technical or vocational courses, and shall be a pre-requisite for graduation. Students shall be required to complete the ROTC for an academic period for two years.
The administration is aware of that the AFP lags behind in terms of acquiring equipment and President Aquino has done more for the military than the three previous administrations combined, according to Palace spokesmen.
Several “big-ticket items” are now being acquired by the government for the AFP as part of the military organization’s modernization program.
Among these assets were two navy frigates worth P18-billion, three air surveillance radars worth P2.68-billion, six close air support aircraft worth P4.97-billion, two units of long-range patrol aircraft worth P5.98-billion, multipurpose attack craft project worth P864.32-million, night fighting system worth P1.116-billion, two C-130 aircraft worth P1.6-billion, two naval helicopters worth P5.4-billion, and lead-in fighter trainer jets ammunition worth P4.47-billion. (R. Burgos)