I just finished watching Bandila at ABS-CBN with Ces Oreña-Drilon reporting on Prof. Rommel Banlaoi's lamentations on the woeful conditions of our military "fortifications" at the Kalayaan group of islands. Banlaoi is the executive director of the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research. He has been to the area recently and observed the deplorable conditions of the Philippine presence there.
In her report, Ces informs us that the Philippines has only four (4) Navy personnel guarding Lawak island. Lawak is one of nine (9) islands in the Kalayaan group occupied by the Philippines. The other eight (8) are Pag-asa, Patag, Likas, Panata, Kota, Rizal Reef, Parola and Ayungin Shoal.
Shots were shown in the video of our "barong-barong" outpost in Rizal Reef compared with the modern-looking Chinese outpost in Fiery Cross Reef, the Vietnamese outpost in Amboyna Cay, and the Malaysian outpost in Swallow Reef which has a helipad and a functional runway. In Pag-asa, the Philippines had no structure in the island and the edge of what used to be a runway has been washed away by the sea; the condition on Ayungin Shoal is unsightly with the pathetic remains of what appears to be an LST beached near the shore to prevent ships from going near. Ayungin Shoal is nearest to the Chinese presence in Mischief Reef.
According to Prof. Balaoi, it is not enough that the Philippines has passed the Baselines Law which asserts our claims over the Kalayaan Group. He insists that our government needs to improve the Navy's capability to match the demands of that law so that it can be enforced.
This is the ABS-CBN video clip via kyte.tv:
How come a purportedly frontline ally of the United States is not gifted with military equipment similar to what our much-smaller neighbors such as Malaysia and Singapore have possessed for decades?
How does a country reputed to have one of the most corrupt governments in the world stand up against the likes of say, the Chinese Navy which has hardware capable of grievous firepower as featured in this CNN report?
And in this Reuters report as well:
Four Navy personnel at Lawak?! Hindi pa ginawang lima para puwede nang basketball team! C'mon! Mrs. Arroyo, Senator Enrile, Speaker Nograles ... wake up! You can do better than that!
The valor and gallantry of Filipinos in arms is unquestionable — just remember the mighty Lapu-lapu, the audacious Tarik Soliman, the unflinching Supremo, Andres Bonifacio, the fearless Gabriela Silang, the steady Sgt. Jose Calugas who won the U.S. Congressional Medal of Honor, the thousands of "battling bastards" of Bataan and Corregidor whose collective heroism seriously upset the Japanese timetable of conquest in the Pacific, the tenacious Colonel Ariel Querubin, who won the Philippines' coveted Medal of Valor. No! The element in question here is the commitment of a government that asks our men in arms to risk their life for country but does not give them the wherewithal to at least stand a Chinaman's chance of fulfilling the mission successfully or, at the very least, surviving the enemy's onslaughts with their pride and dignity intact.
We may not be expected to survive an attack by our more powerful neighbors but like the wartime jurist and patriot Jose Abad Santos, we are duty-bound to do everything we can to prevent ourselves from being at their mercy or from bending our knees to them in shameful surrender.