EDITORIAL - No longer all air, no force
Rosalinda L. Orosa (The Philippine Star) - July 1, 2014 - 12:00am

The Philippine Air Force marks its 67th year today with its officers happy to report that the command is no longer “all air and no force.” For many years that phrase was used to describe one of Asia’s weakest air forces. For the PAF, it wasn’t just a joke but an unfortunate reality.

Long dependent on the American security umbrella, the PAF saw its air assets dwindle since the US bases were shut down in 1992. The problem was largely ignored by policy makers, until the nation saw the consequences of an air force without aircraft.

Rescue and relief efforts during cataclysmic floods, landslides and other natural disasters that hit the country regularly had to wait for air assets from other countries. The lack, felt for many years, was glaring when Super Typhoon Yolanda wreaked havoc in the Visayas last year.

The lack of air assets also weakened the nation’s external defense capability. In the past two decades, Chinese forces took advantage of the absence of Philippine territorial patrols and began building structures and even artificial islands in waters well within the Philippines’ 200-mile exclusive economic zone as defined by international law and clearly a long way from the southernmost tip of China.

Today the PAF celebrates its anniversary with the theme: “Soaring high for peace, freedom and development.” About 50 air assets acquired recently under a revitalized modernization program will be part of an air show during the anniversary ceremonies. It’s still a modest fleet and the PAF remains one of the region’s weakest, but the improvement is a good step on the road to achieving credible defense capability. This is a minimum requirement for any sovereign state.


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