Let us not get ahead of ourselves
TO THE QUICK - Jerry Tundag (The Freeman) - May 27, 2020 - 12:00am

The first of two brandnew South Korean-made frigates for the Philippine Navy has arrived in the country. I can understand the pride with which our military officials are gushng about the development. As a Filipino, I am proud too. Finally we have acquired a real warship, although just a small one, that had not been a mothballed hand-me-down.

The frigate is to be called the BRP Jose Rizal. Its sister ship, still undergoing finishing touches in South Korea, is to be christened the BRP Antonio Luna and is expected to be in the country before the year ends. Both ships are missile-capable, a fact that is being glowingly underscored by officials each time there is occasion to crank out press releases about the acquisitions, which is practically everyday.

Yes, everyday. Each day that I search for news online, I invariably run across a story about the arrival of the BRP Jose Rizal and how, it being missile-capable, it can help boost our claims to portions of the South China Sea. Proud as I am of this small step forward in our military capabilities, such unbridled jawing gives me the creeps.

For still fresh in my mind was the disastrous April 2012 caper our over-enthusiastic military establishment launched the BRP Gregorio del Pilar into. The del Pilar had come into our arsenal from the US under the euphemistically-called Excess Defense Articles Act. Built in 1965, the "Goyo" had been a US Coast Guard cutter that had seen its usefulness to that service branch end.

   But because it was the biggest ever ship to be acquired by the Philippine Navy at the time, the Philippine government started brandishing it as a warship despite the fact that it was a mere cutter built for coast guard, and therefore civilian, patrol duties. The Philippine media, not knowing any better, and not caring to make distinctions, not only swallowed the "warship" self-deception, it aggrssively joined in its promotion.

Well, to our claims in the South China Sea, there are other claimants with navies than need no self-deception in their power projection. And they do not blabber, especially in self-decepion. They watch, and they listen. And they do. So, in April 2012, when the Philippines sent a gray "warship" on a civilian law enforcement mission that otherwise only required a white ship, China found the opportunity to test our nettle and call our hubris.

Of cource the poor civilian-classification "Goyo" had to hightail it from the war mission to which it was incapably sent. But even worse than that humiliation, the incident was actually what gave China the green light to enforce its unlawful claim iver the entire South China Sea. If historians need someday to put a finger on how China pulled the biggest heist in history, they know who to blame --- the Philippines and its "Goyo" warship caper.

And that is why I am getting the creeps again by the way our incorrigible and irrepressible officials are again advertising our small frigate as being missile-capable, as f we are really itching to fire away with missiles that are not even there yet. It says missile-capable, not missile-equipped, see? We still need to see what's left from SAP to buy one projectile and yet we now swagger like we have dozens. Winnie the Pooh must be smiling.

PHILIPPINE NAVY
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