THE Philippine Navy of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) recently announced to the media that they continue to hold on to their dream of fully modernizing their present fleet with the addition of submarines.
This is a dream that has remained a dream for the past fifty years and several administrations in the national government. One can only wonder how the leaders of this nation have remained blind to the fact that all of the lands comprising the archipelago of the Philippines are practically surrounded by water and common sense will dictate that if the nation intends to protect and preserve its sovereignty and territorial integrity it must, by necessity, be able to project capable deterrence against any foreign intrusion which naturally will involve the waters surrounding the islands both above and below its surface.
After Canada, Norway, Indonesia and Russia, the Philippines with 36,289 kilometers ranks number five in the category of countries having the longest coastlines in the world. Not only that, but due to the nature of the Philippine Archipelago, which by definition means “an area that contains a chain or group of islands scattered in lakes, rivers, or ocean,” the waters surrounding these islands have become an integral part of the territory of a nation.
While it cannot be denied that for the past two to three administrations some effort has been made to modernize the Philippine Navy. At the latest the AFP naval force can already boast of having the following military equipment and personnel ready to defend the territorial waters of the country: a) 24,500 active service personnel that includes a contingent of 8,300 soldiers of the Philippine Marine Corp., b) 82 combat vessels, c) 14 auxiliary vessels, d) 25 manned aircraft and eight unmanned aerial vehicles.
Taken all together the above military power of the Philippine Navy might seem formidable at first glance, but one aspect of that naval strength that is sadly missing is the capability to patrol, monitor and conduct active defense measures beneath the surface of the waters.
This is where submarines, which by definition is a “watercraft capable of independent operation underwater, have to come in and if past government administrations had any idea of how important these submarines are in projecting naval superiority, then the country should have already acquired at least one or two of these undersea watercraft. It is therefore surprising to learn, without necessarily maintaining the legitimacy of such a view, that “the Philippines has been an aspirational maritime power since the 1950s and its top choice for deterring threats and defending its territory has been submarines”. (https://thediplomat.com/2022/04/the-philippines-wants-to-acquire-submarines-what-should-they-be-used-for/)
If indeed the above statement is accurate then how come 50 years after such a view has been posited, no determined effort has been made for the country to have its own submarines in order to better protect its fluvial territory. It is quite unfortunate that nothing concrete has been done to realize this aspiration and so until now it remains a dream for the Philippine navy to own a submarine that can patrol its undersea jurisdiction.
Of course nothing is impossible, just maybe with this new administration led by President Bongbong Marcos, perhaps this country might yet realize having one or two submarines in the near future.