Monday, August 3, 2015

On Japan's entry into the West PH Sea disputes, China's apprehensions, and what it meant for the Philippines

MaxDefense is again pleased to have a good friend, eminent defense analyst and historian Prof. Jose Antonio A. Custodio, share his piece here in our blog pages, this time discussing historical background of Japan's militaristic past, its past conflicts with China and the rest of Asia, and why Japan's foray into the territorial issues in the West Philippine Sea could likely make China more concerned and furious against its longtime regional nemesis. 

Posting the entirety of the 3-part series altogether in a single entry, first published in starting last July 16, 2015. Photos were added by MaxDefense according to its own interpretation of Prof. Custodio's article. 

Japanese and Philippine warships in a joint naval exercise in the West Philippine Sea in 2015. More exercises between the 2 strategic partners are expected, with the strengthening of bilateral economic, defense, and political relations between the Philippines and Japan.
Photo taken from the Japan Ministry of Defense.

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Part 1: Japan in WPS: Beyond China evoking World War II atrocities:

Japan’s entry into the West Philippine Sea has been fully supported by the Philippines and vigorously protested by China. This action by Tokyo has revived memories of the Second World War as Beijing has been using the records of Japan’s transgressions and atrocities during the previous global conflict as propaganda to counter Japanese security initiatives in the region.

The Philippines, which ironically had been a country occupied by Imperial Japan, is now rapidly finding itself marching in step with what may turn into its strongest ally after the United States should anything formally be drawn up between Manila and Tokyo. It has also used the World War II past but not against the Japanese but against Beijing.

Philippine President Benigno S. Aquino III had stated that China has been acting very much in the same manner that Germany had been treating its neighbors in the 1930s leading to the outbreak of war in Europe. Oversensitive Chinese took exception to this declaration by the Philippine president overlooking the fact that what was compared was the similarity in the bullying tactics and unilateral actions of Germany with what China has been doing for the past decade and it was never alleged or claimed that the Chinese ruling elite were a bunch of murderous genocidal maniacs which the Nazis were.

Despite of course the fact that Beijing is systematically destroying Tibetan culture and Maoist tenets do have a tinge of genocidal tendencies itself as seen in the massive deaths caused by the Great Leap Forward in the 1950s and the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s.

The thing is, while everyone is harking back to the Second World War to warn about what either China and Japan are doing, one of the most essential factors that led to the outbreak of war here in Asia in 1941 seems to be overlooked especially by the Chinese.

China and Japan: It’s personal

For centuries, both China and Japan have been at each other’s throats.

In many instances the Korean Peninsula had been the real estate where the two squared off against each other.

However following the reclusive Tokugawa Shogunate, the newly modernized Japan fought and pulverized the armies of the decaying Manchu Dynasty and won the 1895 Sino Japanese War. The next decades would see Japan carve out territory after territory at the expense of China.

In 1910, Japan annexed Korea and in the next decade firmly established itself in Manchuria. This made war inevitable and it broke out after being instigated by Japan in 1937.

The brutality of that war has left a lasting impression on the Chinese and atrocities like the Nanking Massacre, the Burn All-Kill All-Loot All anti-guerrilla punitive operations by the Japanese and the notorious Unit 731 chemical and biological weapon experiments have never been forgotten.

A photo said to be taken during the Nanking Massacre (aka. Rape of Nanking) during the Second Sino-Japanese War in 1937. Although the event is now being questioned for its authenticity and accuracy, whatever the real numbers are, China still holds grudges against Japan for its humiliation and defeat by Japan.
Photo taken from topsecretwriters website. 

Following the war, Japan really did drag its feet in acknowledging and apologizing for its atrocities and it is indeed true that for every effort by Japan to extend remorse for its wartime past, there was an attempt within the country to justify the reasons why Japan went to war.

That obviously did not sit well with many Asian countries, most especially the Chinese. Those are the reasons why it had become personal between the two countries.

The trigger of World War II in Asia

As mentioned, Japan had been deeply involved in China following the undeclared Sino-Japanese War in 1937 and even much earlier than that, and the bulk of the Imperial Japanese Army was deployed in operations against the Chinese.

The Imperial Japanese Navy was also involved in the war with its warships and aircraft effectively conducting a blockade of China by seizing strategic ports and locations along the coast. Although the war was localized it was sending a chilling effect on the rest of the region and the Europeans and Americans took steps to ensure that its interests in Shanghai and Hong Kong were safe from any spillover from the conflict.

In June 1940 when the Germans vanquished the French, the Japanese sensed that France’s colonial possessions were ripe for the picking. After browbeating the Vichy French authorities to accept Japanese military presence in Indochina, Tokyo then began establishing bases in that French colony. Simultaneously, the Japanese entered into the notorious Tripartite Agreement with Rome and Berlin and became a member of the Axis alliance. These two actions were the straws that practically broke the camel’s back for Washington and London. Economic sanctions were immediately called for by the Americans against the Japanese. The British together with the Western European governments in exile supported that US initiative and a crippling economic blockade of strategic materials such as rubber, metals, and most especially of oil was imposed on the Japanese.

As Japan had no such resources, this embargo would have a devastating effect on Tokyo’s national interests. Japan’s war leaders were now in a dilemma. Should they buckle under the pressure of the Americans and Europeans and cease their operations in China and lose face in the process, or should they continue with the war and run out of the means to conduct it?

For quite some time, the Japanese high command was undergoing a debate as to which front to expand next as there were those who favored concentrating against the Soviet Union while others cast covetous eyes on the rich possessions of the colonial powers in Southeast Asia. Following a series of defeats against the Soviet Union at Mongolia in the late 1930s, and the pressures and demands of the war in China, the focus shifted towards the colonies at Southeast Asia. Now with the US led embargo in full effect against Japan, the capacity for the Japanese military to conduct operations was measured in several months before oil and other essentials run out. The plan then was to strike southwards and conquer the rich colonies there. The trigger then that started the war for Japan was the reality of being starved to submission by the economic embargo.

The US embargo of critical war materials in 1940 brought almost brought Japan to its knees, and made it realize that it needs to strike fast and capture alternative sources of resources and control of trade routes. If China keeps control of the West Philippine Sea based on its so-called historical claim, Japan might be brought back to the same condition. History shows that Japan won't hesitate to act fast if this happens to her.

Part 2: The strength of Japan: the second type of island-nation mentality:

There are two types of island nations. The first is the type that, because of its isolation brought about by the seas surrounding it, tends to look inward and have little or no comprehension of external developments. The second is the type that seeks to go beyond the seas that confine it and in the process build large empires whether by conquest or economic activity.

Japan is the latter type of island nation and is very similar to the United Kingdom in that regard. The Japanese view the sea lanes as fundamental for their national survival as commerce, vital to the viability of their economic life, and depend on its unhampered flow into and out of Japan. No ifs or buts about that.

Hence, China as a nation located in the Asian mainland may have difficulty in understanding that very fundamental aspect of Japan’s existence as a powerful maritime nation state, which had already caused it to go to war 70 years ago. Simply put, one cannot mess around with Japan’s contact with the outside world and get away with it.

While postwar Japan strove to learn the lessons of the Second World War by embracing peaceful economic development, it also created a powerful naval capability that would check the Soviet Union’s submarine force during the Cold War - this, in order to avoid a repeat of its disastrous experience when the United States strangled the Japanese through prewar economic sanctions and the wartime naval and submarine blockade.

In fact, former officers of the Imperial Japanese Army and Imperial Japanese Navy joined the newly established Japan Self Defense Force ensuring that lessons learned during the war years would remain codified in the new military organization. One such individual was Minoru Genda, the officer who planned the air assault on Pearl Harbor. After the war, he joined the Japan Air Self Defense Force and became its commanding general from 1959-1962.

Even with its purely defensive policy, Japan maintained a large, modern, well equipped and well trained naval and coast guard forces to safeguard their trade lifelines, exclusive economic zones, and be ready to project power if needed. That is expected to increase further now that Japan has allowed its self defense forces to act like a normal armed forces.

On the other hand, these very lessons of the Second World War seem to have been forgotten by China in its haste to establish suzerainty over this part of the world; and it seems to have not properly assessed the Japanese response to what it is doing in the West Philippine Sea.

Many observers and analysts fail to realize that Japan is a nation composed of several large island groups that has a deep and historical appreciation of the maritime domain and its role in the country’s survival and viability as a powerful and influential state. This has been a recurring theme in Japan’s history from the 19th Century onwards, and felt very keenly by the Japanese during the Second World War. Just like Great Britain which 19th Century Japan looked up to as a model worth emulating, the Japanese first attempted to establish a traditional empire that ended with the disaster of the Second World War; and, following that, an economic empire: both attempts required a strong maritime tradition and capability to protect and advance their interests.

However, by the tailend of the Cold War, Japan could already see the handwriting on the wall regarding United States presence in the Asia Pacific, and since the late 1980s it began modernizing its power projection capabilities.

The first indicator of that was the appearance of a new type of vessel in the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force, the LST 4001 Osumi in 1995. Although the Japanese made great effort to explain the ship as a Landing Ship, it somewhat resembled a small aircraft carrier with its flat deck and island superstructure. Japan built three vessels of this type.

The JDS Osumi, a landing ship tank with a flat deck, of the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF). Japan has 3 of this type of vessel in its inventory and are considered as LST.
Photo from

In the early 1990s, the Japanese military was already participating in peacekeeping operations in Cambodia and this, too, was another indicator of Japan’s increasing shift toward projection of forces as such activities familiarized Japan with operations outside of the Home Islands and in the logistic needs for such.

The last time the Japanese had projected their forces was in 1945 and there was a lot of catching up to do.

By the 21st Century, Japanese combat aircraft were being deployed further and further away in exercises with their American ally in the Pacific region. Then in 2006, the Japan began the construction of DDH 181 Hyuga.

Hyuga on the day of its launch was the biggest warship in the JMSDF; although it looked like an aircraft carrier and approaching the size of a World War 2 era fleet carrier, it was designated as a destroyer. This then made it the largest destroyer in the world at 646 feet in length, and Japan built two and named the later one DDH 182 Ise.

The JDS Hyuga, which was described by the Japanese as a helicopter destroyer. But it closely resemble a helicopter carrier. The JMSDF has 2 of these ships.
Photo taken from

The names Hyuga and Ise were once carried by two battleships of the Imperial Japanese Navy that entered service in World War I and saw extensive combat in World War II and were both modified as hybrid battleship/aircraft carriers.

DDH181 and DDH 182, however, both lost the distinction of being the largest “destroyers” afloat when Japan commissioned the DDH 183 Izumo in 2015 that, again, despite it being designated as such, had all the appearances of an aircraft carrier. At 814 feet in length, it is also as large or if not larger than many World War II-era fleet carriers, thus making it theoretically possible to operate fixed-wing aircraft if modified with a ski jump and with the flight deck reinforced.

Although Japan is part of the consortium that is developing the Lockheed F-35 Lighting II and has agreed to order 42 of the F-35A variant, should it opt in the future for the B variant - which is the Vertical and Short Take Off model - then it will really raise suspicions about the true intention of all these flat decks in service with the JMSDF.

The JDS Izumo, currently Japan's largest warship, which closely resemble an aircraft carrier and is even larger than some fleet carriers of the Imperial Japanese Navy of the past. Technically, the JMSDF has 3 aircraft carriers as of now, and is building another Izumo-class ship.

What the reefs represent for Japan:

When China declared an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) that swallowed up the East China Sea, Japan was one of the countries that vigorously protested. Each time Beijing did a provocative action, the Japanese did not flinch from facing off with them.

Today, Chinese incursions into Japanese airspace have so become a regular occurrence that the Japan Air Self Defense Force maintains a round-the-clock alert status in areas the Chinese aircraft regularly intrude into. China - no longer Russia - is effectively the number one violator of Japan’s airspace.

Now that China has undertaken an artificial island construction spree at the West Philippine Sea - something only the most naïve or the most treasonous will view as anything but military outposts designed to curtail and control movement into the area and to project Chinese military power - the impact of this to Japan is not something that is hard to guess, as all these lie astride Japanese shipping.

Of course, the Japanese are aware of the Chinese First and Second Island Chain strategy, but it is doubtful that they will wait for that to transpire before they take any action.

The illustration above shows the crude oil trade flows in the South China Sea/West Philippine Sea as of 2011. All crude oil from the Persian Gulf, Africa and other countries west of Japan passes through the disputed waters. A Chinese control on these waters could be devastating for the Japanese , thus their interest in keeping the area check from Chinese domination.
Photo taken from the US Energy Information Administration.

Part 3: Why China is apprehensive about Japan's entry into the West Philippine Sea:

In 2014, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe led a Cabinet decision to lift Japan’s restrictions on the use of force overseas. This is the concept of collective self-defense which although being challenged by the political opposition is being used as a means to eventually redraw the Japanese Constitution. The collective self-defense concept contains three conditions which are as follows:

The first is in a case where a nation with close ties to Japan comes under attack and the lives, freedom, and right of Japanese nationals to pursue happiness are clearly endangered. The second condition specifies that force may be used only if there is no other effective way to protect the lives of Japanese citizens. The final condition is the limitation of the use of force to the minimally required level. These standards open up the way for Japan’s Self-Defense Forces, under certain conditions, to aid an allied nation that is under attack, even if Japan itself is not.

Since then the Japanese have ramped up not only their government to government contacts with the countries in dispute with China in the West Philippine Sea, but they are also working to become a regular and strong presence in the area. Consider that the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force has conducted two exercises with the Philippine military within the month while at the same time it is widely reported that a maritime patrol aircraft will be provided to the Philippines by Japan.

A Memorandum on Defense Cooperation and Exchanges was signed between the two countries on January 2015 which set the stage for Japanese activities with their Filipino counterparts that ranges from exercises to assistance programs. By June of 2015, the maritime agencies and navies of the two countries had undertaken two joint exercises which underlie the rapid manner in which the defense and security relationship between Tokyo and Manila is developing.

Just to put emphasis, prior to those two exercises, there was practically no activity between the two militaries. The last one between the two was in 1945, and both the Filipinos and Japanese were trying to kill each other! In fact, it can be said that Japan’s current activities in the Philippines have the potential to approach the level of the security relationship that Manila has with Washington DC.

The Japanese mindset: not a puppet of the Americans:

Conventional thinking has it that the Japanese are a cog in the grand plans of the United States in the region and that Japan is a puppet of the US. That would be an oversimplification of the relationship between the two countries and disregards the fact that Japan, just like the Philippines and Vietnam, is a frontline state against China’s territorial ambitions and considers the situation a clear and present danger and a direct threat to its survival.

That situation then creates the favorable climate upon which the lessons of history and the historical experience of Japan will come to play.

Many analysts tend to view Japan’s posture as either the effect of ultranationalism or as being subordinate to Washington DC, as if the survival of Japan is only the preserve and concern of so called ultranationalists and puppets of the US. It definitely is not.

Ultranationalism or unabashed pro-Americanism will not spur the construction of aircraft carrier type ships in the JMSDF, and it would also not be the driver for Japan’s reaching out to countries in the region to establish a coordinated multinational effort to face China.

Given the experience of Japan during World War II, it is safe to assume that the destructive air and naval blockade that the United States imposed on the Home Islands during that conflict would leave an indelible mark in the minds of generations of Japanese national security policy makers and military planners.

These people are the architects responsible for building and reorienting the Japanese military through the past decades to its current state, which is now benefiting the current term of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and is allowing the Japanese government the capability to respond decisively to China’s ambitions now and in the years to come.

With that traumatic historical experience at the back of their minds, and the fact also Japan is a frontline state, it may just turn out to be more forceful than the US in asserting its agenda and interests in the region especially when it comes to facing off against China.

China’s achieving its strategic goals as becoming the dominant power in the region will not sit well with Japan as it will result in it becoming a subordinate state to Beijing. That will not be in the national interest of Japan.

Thus Japan will most likely push back against China with or without US support as it not only has the economic capability to stand up to pressure from Washington DC should the leadership there become less sympathetic to Tokyo, but it also has the military capability to do unilateral actions. Which is probably why Chinese political and military officials are very apprehensive of Japan’s entry into the West Philippine Sea.

Hence it will be in Japan’s interests that countries like the Philippines that are sympathetic to it or have common issues against China be made capable of spreading Chinese capabilities thin so as to cause Beijing to limit itself to occupying a few artificial islands and nothing anymore grander than that as a reminder of its folly of trying to take on so many opponents at once.

What China has to realize is that it has stirred up a hornet’s nest in its actions against Japan. Although China has used history by raising Japan’s atrocities during and before the Second World War as a means to drive a wedge between Tokyo and countries that had once felt the boot of Japanese imperialism, what it forgets is that in modern and contemporary history, the Japanese have never lost a war against the Chinese.

China cannot claim to have won the war against Japan during World War II when it was ultimately Russian forces that destroyed the Japanese Kwantung Army in China. That fact provides a very strong psychological boost for the Japanese against the Chinese.

Contrast that with the defeatism and feeling of inferiority so prevalent among many Filipinos when it comes to dealing with China as a regional power.

Although considered as one of the strongest bilateral partnerships, the Japanese would not allow the Americans to be completely in control, and has started distancing itself from the policies the Americans implemented as part of Japanese defeat in World War 2. Push comes to shove, with or without American support, Japan would assert itself against China using its own capacity.

What now Philippines?

Although it is an oft repeated statement that each country is guided by its own national interests, the question that needs to be asked is if the Philippines truly understands the undercurrents that shape Japanese strategic perceptions and objectives.

Does Manila really understand how far the Japanese will go to defend their interests and that throughout history the Japanese - when they feel besieged - have the ability to strike out without warning against an enemy?

Consider that in the span of a few decades, Japan has carefully built up its power projection capabilities and modified its security outlook to engage and defeat threats way before they reach Japanese shores. That in a span of a few years, from a strict assistance program limited to aid to the Philippine Coast Guard and others of a civilian nature, Japan is now emerging as a potential provider of military assistance to Manila.

The Philippines has to realize that it is not dealing with a dithering easily distracted ally like the United States of America, but a country that has a suppressed martial tradition that may just reappear due to China’s rapacious territorial ambitions.

Philippine Navy frigate BRP Ramon Alcaraz (left) and Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force destroyer JDS Hatakaze during KAKADU 2014 exercises off Australia.
Photo taken from Australian Navy.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

What is the Philippine Government's Score on the Implementation of the Revised AFP Modernization Program?

If we are to score the implementation of the Revised Armed Forces of the Philippines Modernization Program now, do you know what is the result?


Now, before making any negative comments, it would be best to hear MaxDefense out first and read the entire entry. How we got the score will also be explained later.

To be fair to the government, there were projects that were completed and are now being used by coutnry's armed services, and the men in the field could really be proud of. The Philippine Army has upgraded its communications, mobility, individual and crew served weaponry in the past years. The Philippine Navy has seen its World War 2-era flagship replaced and has new assets to use in both sea and air operations. The Philippine Air Force is now flying with a few new assets for mobility roles, and have been improving its capability in anticipation of new air assets.

These are among the good points the government earned in modernizing the Armed Forces of the Philippines. They might be small steps, and small as they are, they are steps moving forward.

So what is MaxDefense trying to imply here?

All these projects that we see being implemented, and equipment being delivered, are actually part of an earlier program, called the AFP Modernization Program. To those who don't know, there are actually 2 programs involved in modernizing the AFP. The former, and the Revised AFP Modernization Program.

So let's discuss these so-called modernization programs for more clarity. MaxDefense won't be too technical now because the main objective here is to let the ordinary people know what this is all about.

The Philippine Navy has done great strides to achieve what it is today, but it needs more to be able to meet the demands of the present and future. It can only be attained if the government truly provide the necessary support to the military, especially to their equipments needs suitable for territorial defense.
Photo of BRP Ramon Alcaraz doing the "show the flag" mission taken from Philippine Navy's official website.

The AFP Modernization Program (AFPMP):

When Republic Act 7898 (RA 7898) was enacted on February 1995 under then President Ramos' administration, it was expected to be a dawn of a new era for the Armed Forces of the Philippines, which was then just newly independent from the United States armed forces after their move out of Clark Air Base and Subic Naval Base in 1991. This act will be known as the AFP Modernization Act, which encompasses the AFP Modernization Program.

It was supposed to give the AFP a jumpstart to improve its capability without the dependence on US miltiary assistance. The original plan was to provide around Php330 billion pesos over 15 years, divided into three 5-year phases, for the AFP to acquire modern equipment, improve its warfighting, peacekeeping, disaster response capabilities, and be able to defend the Philippines from both internal and external threats. Funding came from the AFP Modernization Trust Fund (AFPMTF), a repository of funds coming from different sources including general appropritations from the annual government budget, remittances coming from the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA), and other government sources.

By 2010 or 15 years later, only a small fraction of the Php330 billion was provided due to lack of support from 3 suceeding presidetial administrations, that of Pres. Ramos, Pres. Joseph Estrada, and Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Not enough funds were provided for the AFPMTF, which curtailed the AFP from acquiring its desired equipment to enable it to conduct their duties. Shortchanged, the AFP still tried its best to acquire what it needs with what is available.

It was only for 2010 that Pres. Arroyo increased the allocation for the AFP Modernization Program to more than Php11 billion, the biggest ever since the start of implementation of the AFP Modernization Program.

But with the leadership of Pres. Benigno Aquino III, funding came in consistently than before, starting in 2011. Projects were still lined up under the AFP Modernization Program even after RA 7898's expiration on 2010 after reaching its 15 years effectivity.

The AFP Modernization Program covered by RA 7898 should have allowed the Philippines to acquire 24 to 36 modern multi-role fighters, like the McDonnell Douglas (now Boeing) F/A-18 Hornet seen above during a visit by AFP officials in the mid 1990s.
Photo taken from Lt. Col. Francis Neri, PAF FB page.

The Revised AFP Modernization Program (RAFPMP):

To enable the modernization of the AFP to continue with legal basis, on 2012, both legislative houses and Pres. Aquino passed the Republic Act 10349, or the Revised AFP Modernization Act, which extended the existing RA 7898.

Like the original program, the Revised AFP Modernization Act again spanned for 15 years from 2013 to 2028, and it was again divided into three 5-year phases, or Horizons. This will be then called the Revised AFP Modernization Program (RAFPMP).

Horizon 1 from 2013 to 2017, was originally allocated with Php75 billion, was meant to provide the Philippines with an "effective minimum credible defense posture". This includes the start of shifting the AFP's focus from internal security operations to territorial defense. Budget was later increased to around Php90 billion, and MaxDefense sources confirmed that the government is still trying to push to increase this further due to projects that needed to be implemented that are not included in those listed together for the Php90 billion budget.

Horizon 2, from 2018 to 2023, is a continuation of the earlier phase, making use of the gains made on earlier and will be focused on acquiring capabilities and improving the AFP's capabilities further. The budget allocation still varies, initially the AFP was placing it at around Php140 billion, although newer information obtained by MaxDefense puts it at more than Php500 billion for the 3 armed services and GHQ combined.

Horizon 3, the final phase from 2024-2028, would enable to AFP to be at par, or even better than some of its regional contemporaries. The AFP by then should be effective enough in its mandate to defend the country from external threats, to do humanitarian and disaster relief (HADR) operations, and protect its EEZ and and interests in the West Philippine Sea, and the eastern frontiers of the country. Budget may be somewhere between Php180 billion to a whooping Php600 billion if data obtained by MaxDefense would not be changed.

The implementing rules and regulations of the RA 10349 can be found HERE.

Projects Under the AFP Modernization Program RA 7898:

The coverage of this program spans from an era where online sources are not as effectively maintained as now, and most online information are already gone or have not been updated properly. But at a glance, it covers more than 200 projects from all three services and general headquarters from 1995 until now.

Yes. Until now.

Most of the projects that we have discussed here on MaxDefense until recently, especially those that were awarded, being built, delivered, or are on hold because of irregularities or issues, are mostly covered by the AFP Modernization Program under RA 7898. This includes the following examples of awarded big-ticket items that we are hearing nowadays:

Philippine Army: 
155mm Towed Howitzer (Elbit Systems), 5.56mm Assault Rifle (Remington Arms), Upgraded M113 (Elbit Systems), Rocket Launcher Light (Airtronic USA), and Force Protection Equipment (Achidatex Nazareth Elite-Colorado Shipyard JV)

Philippine Navy:
Landing Craft Utility (BRP Tagbanua), Hamiton-class cutters (BRP Gregorio del Pilar and BRP Ramon Alcaraz), Coast Watch Philippines, Strategic Sealift Vessel (PT PAL), MPAC Mk.1 & Mk.2 (Propmech), and Naval Helicopters (AgustaWestland AW-109).

The acquisition of 2 Strategic Sealift Vessels for the Philippine Navy are actually covered by the older AFP Modernization Program under RA 7898.
Photo taken from

Philippine Air Force:
Medium Lift Fixed Wing Aircraft (Airbus CASA C-295M), Light Lift Fixed Wing Aircraft (PTDI NC-212i), Attack Helicopters (AgustaWestland AW-109E), Refurbished UH-1 (Dornier UH-1D), Combat Utility Helicopters (PZL W-3A Sokol).

The acquisition of PZL W-3A Sokol combat utility helicopters were actually approved before the term of  Pres. Aquino. It was only during his term that the helicopters were delivered to the PAF.

Notice anything?

These are the projects that we are now cherishing and happy about! These are the same assets that we have been discussing mostly as good news!

So what covers the new program?

Projects under Phase 1 (1st Horizon) of the Revised AFP Modernization Program RA 10349 :

There are 33 projects covering the RAFPMP under the 1st Horizon covering 2013 to 2017. Of the 33, 9 are for the Army, 10 are for the Navy and Marine Corps, 11 for the Air Force, and 3 for General Headquarters.

The following are the projects covered by the RAFPMP RA 10349:

General Headquarters, AFP:
1. AFP Light Utility Vehicles
2. AFP C4ISTAR System
3. AFP Civil Engineering Equipment

The total amound for all 3 GHQ projects is around Php7 billion.
The AFP General Headquarters plan to acquire several hundred Kia KM-450 trucks from Korea for their requirements.
Photo taken from

Philippine Army:

1. Radio, High Frequency 50W for Vehicles
2. Radio, 2 to 5W Handheld
3. Rocket Launcher - Light (Lot 2)
4. Night Fighting System
5. Shore-Based Missile System
6. Tactical Engagement Simulation System
7. Thermal Imaging Device
8. Field Ambulance
9. Armored Personnel Carrier M113

The total amount for all 9 Army projects is around Php9.5 billion.

114 donated M113A2 armored personnel carriers are still languishing in US Army facility in California, awaiting for the Philippine Army to ship them out. Failing to do so within this year means goodbye to these free assets.
Photo taken from the Philippine Army Mechanized Division's official website.

Philippine Navy and Philippine Marine Corps:
1. ASW capable Naval Helicopter
2. Frigate
3. Multi-Purpose Attack Craft Mk.3
4. Amphibious Assault Vehicle
5. Marine Forces Imagery and Targeting Support System
6. Base Support and Logistics
7. Jacinto-class Patrol Vessel Combat System Alignment Phase 3
8. Jacinto-class Patrol Vessel Marine Engineering Upgrade for PS-37
9. 7.62mm Designated Marksman Rifle
10. 5.56mm Standard Weapons System

The total amount for all 10 Navy projects is around Php29.5 billion.

The awarding of the Philippine Navy's Frigate project to a winning shipbuilder is currently stalled as Pres. Aquino has not yet approved the project, thus budget is also on-hold by the DBM.

Philippine Air Force:
1. Air Surveillance Radar
2. Close Air Support Aircraft
3. Combat Utility Helicopter
4. Fighter/Surface Attack Aircraft/Lead-in Fighter Trainer
5. F/SAA/LIFT Munitions
6. Long Range Patrol Aircraft
7. Full Motion Flight Simulators
8. C-130T
9. Basing Support System for F/SAA/LIFT
10. Basing Support System for Air Surveillance Radar
11. Basing Support System for Long Range Patrol Aircraft

The total amount for all 11 Air Force projects is around Php44.9 billion.

Only the FA-50 acquisition project (above) and the Bell 412 helicopter acquisition (not shown) have made significant strides of all the projects covered under RA 10349.
Photo taken from KIA's official FB page.

Now, of all 33 projects, only 2 have been approved and are already being delivered, these are the F/SAA/LIFT which was awarded to Korea Aerospace Industries for their FA-50PH Fighting Eagle, and the CUH whiche was awarded to Canadian Commercial Corporation for the Bell Helicopters Bell 412EP. So there are still 31 projects still languishing in either Malacanang or the DND offices awaiting for approval.

But the Philippine Star recently reported that 28 projects could face delay because until now, Pres. Aquino has not signed the approval of these projects, which will allow the Department of Budget Management (DBM) to provide funding. According to MaxDefense sources, the 28 projects are all the of the remaining 31 projects except the Army's Shore-Based Missile System (SBMS) which is being pushed for realignment by the DND and AFP, and the Navy's 7.62mm Designated Marksman Rifles and 5.56mm Standard Weapons System. These 3 projects are approved in-principle by the President last March, although the SBMS project is currently being planned for realignment by new AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Iriberri, and by the Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin himself.

Who Really Should Get the Credit for the Implementation of AFPMP?

Again, to be fair, it was the Aquino administration who was able to provide the funding for the bulk of the projects implemented from the AFP Modernization Program covered by RA 7898, which were mostly made from 2010 onwards.

But they are not the ones who really can take all the credit if we really want to give it to the responsible people.

All these - the planning, the guidelines, the transparency in the acquisition processes, and the legal foundation for the sources of funding. These were actually pillars erected by previous defense and military leaders and government officials. There are even some projects that could have been acquired and completed earlier if not for the politiking and meddling of current government and defense leaders.

Some examples of projects that were completed during Pres. Aquino's term, but were actually carried-over from the previous administration include:

- Harris military radios, Kia trucks, and Night Fighting Systems (AN/PVS-14 night vision goggles) for the Philippine Army;

- The Hamilton-class high endurance cutters, the Naval Helicopter project, the Jacinto-class upgrade projects, Night Fighting Systems, and the BRP Tagbanua for the Philippine Navy and Philippine Marines;

- The SAA/LIFT project, the W-3A Sokol combat utility helicopters, the Attack Helicopter project, and the Close Air Support Aircraft project for the Philippine Air Force

Do not get MaxDefense wrong, it does not favor certain presidents or leaders to explain this idea. But in fairness to everyone involved, the Aquino administration cannot take full credit for the successful implementation of several big-ticket AFPMP RA 7898 projects.

The acquisition of the ship which was eventually be the BRP Gregorio del Pilar was actually in an advanced stage when Pres. Aquino took power.
Photo taken from

So how did we get the score of 6/100 for the RAFPMP implementation?

Let's do simple math:

Out of 33 projects, only 2 were implemented, as discussed earlier. So that's 2 out of 33.

2/33, or "2 divided by 33", is equal to 0.0606. This is also equivalent to 6.06% in percentage.

6.06% is also equal to "6.06 out of 100". You round it down, and you get "6 out of 100", or simply 6/100.

Remember, we are only counting those under the RAFPMP.

Is the government really proud in getting that miserably failing mark for one of its most important programs and legacies, which is now running in its 3rd year? MaxDefense believes that completing only 2 out of 33 by this time is not something a government should be proud of, harping around that they are serious in improving the Philippines' armed forces, 3 years since the implementation of the RAFPMP under RA 10349. This inspite promises of funding being provided for the RAFPMP from 2013 to 2015 by the annual government budget for those years.

MaxDefense won't go into too much detail anymore as it will only further complicate the issue. People may not want to read what MaxDefense can say so let's put it to that for now.

Experts Agree Too:

People who have experience and are experts on the state of Philippine security and defense affairs have been vocal on a common ground. And they believe that the current administration may not be able to meet it's promise of a "Minimum Credible Defense Posture" by 2016.

Interaksyon recently released a report commentng former military leaders, who themselves were previously involved in the modernization programs of the AFP. And suprisingly, they are also doubtful on the government's capability meet it's goals, aside from not agreeing to the DND and AFP's decision to realign the SBMS project for internal security operations equipment. They agree that the Aquino government has not really bought anything that can effectively address the country's external threats.

Some of the reasons they agree on the slow efforts by the government, among others, are weak defense leadership, corruption, personal interest over organizational needs, and defense and military leaders who are not prepared to tackle external defense needs.

Another recent report also indicated the disappointment of legislators on the implementation of the entire AFP Modernization Program, in light of the changes made by Gen. Iriberri and DND on the decision to realign the SBMS project. This highly questionable move has become a basis if the defense leadership is bent on addressing the externald defense capability of the country.

The cancellation to acquire the Shore Based Missile System under Horizon 1 of the Revised AFP Modernization Program is considered a highly questionable move. Although the planned realignment has not yet been approved by the president, the support of SecDef Gazmin to the plan could mean Pres. Aquino will definitely approve of it as well.

It should be taken note that country's National Security Adviser Cesar Garcia Jr. repeatedly told the public that the biggest and clearest secuirty threat to our country right now is China's aggression in the West Philippine Sea. With the NPA, Abu Sayaff and BIFF on the run, the MNLF silent, and the MILF wanting for a peaceful solution now, isn't it obvious enough that external threat is the worst national security problem of the Philippines that should be given full and immediate attention by the government?

Let's make 2 more examples of external defense-related projects that highlight the lack of seriousness of the government, AFP and DND leadership to meet its territorial defense needs as soon as possible:

1. There are 2 projects to improve the capabilities of the Gregorio del Pilar-class frigates. First is for a limited capability upgrade to install new radar/sensors and 25mm remote operated chain guns for the two ships of the class. The second is to improve its warfighting capability by installing defense and offensive missile capabilities.

So far, the 1st project has moved slowly, and only BRP Ramon Alcaraz has been installed with two Mk.38 Mod.2 guns. There is no news if the guns for the BRP Gregorio del Pilar were even ordered. Both ships have not receive any new radar as well.

The 2nd project has not moved at all. According to MaxDefense sources, the proposals by several companies to arm the ships with missiles and other systems have been sleeping somewhere in the DND. Among those offered were the ones discussed by MaxDefense in its previous blog entries about the frigates.

The only major upgrades made on the Gregorio del Pilar-class frigates of the Philippine Navy are two Mk.38 Mod.2 guns on BRP Ramon Alcaraz. The other ship, BRP Gregorio del Pilar, has not received the same upgrade. Both ships have not received any new air and surface search radars or missile systems until now.

2. The FA-50PH were acquired not just because of its lead-in fighter trainer capability, but also because of its ability to be the Philippine Air Force's interim fighter aircraft until new Multi-Role Fighters are acquired in the future. But among those pending the President's approval are 2 projects to acqurie air-to-air and air-to-ground missiles, 20mm gun ammunition, and defensive chaffs and flares.

With the FA-50PH already being built and the first 2 units arriving in December 2015, the acqusition of ordnance to be carried by these aircraft has stalled. Even if the President sign the approval this week, it would definitely take more than a year before the first shipment may probably arrive. That means that from December 2015 until that time, the aircraft will be nothing more but training and surveillance aircraft without any capability to fight air and surface targets.
Without missiles like the AIM-9L/I-1 Sidewinder, which is among being considered for the FA-50PH, then these aircraft will be nothing more but mere training aircraft.
Photo taken from Wikimedia.

Until President Aquino fails to find the problem within his defense and military leadership as well as his budget allocation priorities, MaxDefense believes that he cannot put into reality his promises of a capable Armed Forces of the Philippines of a "Minimum Credible Defense Posture" by the time he goes down in July 2016. 

And with only a few months left for him to close all defense acquisition deals before becoming considered as "midnight deals", MaxDefense does not know how the president and his men can really settle the deadlines. 

Another thing that worries MaxDefense: with the current projects already delayed, it would definitely have an effect on the succeeding projects of the Revised AFP Modernization Program covered under Horizon 2 from 2018-2022. Delays now means further delays later on too.

Until then, the best we can hope for now is for him to sign the pending acquisition project approval endorsements under Horizon 1. Only DND now knows how they can make a miracle without making questionable and highly irregular decisions to speed up the acquisition process and awarding of contracts before October 2015.

Delays now could also mean delays later. We might see the Horizon 2 phase's MRF project pushed a few more years from its original target schedule if the government cannot meet its schedule for Horizon 1 projects.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

SNAFU in the DND and the Philippine Army for Scrapping its Shore Based Missile System Project for Helmets and Vests

In its previous blog entry dated 4 July 2015, MaxDefense provided its analysis on the Philippine Army's Shore Based Missile System (SBMS), which was for acquisition as an anti-ship, anti-amphibious assault tactical ballistc guided rocket system. This is in the face of aggressive moves by China on Philippine territory, EEZ, and interests in the West Philippine Sea. It also discussed, based on initial news report by The Standard, the realignment of the project's budget to instead fund the acquisition of several infantry-related equipment for internal security operations.

IMI Lynx with EXTRA and LAR-160.
Photo taken from

Previously MaxDefense concluded that either the Philippine Army proceed with the acquisition of the IMI's Coastal and Island Defense System (CIDS) for the Shore Based Missile System project, or if additional funding permits, revert to acquiring the more expensive but more capable anti-ship cruise missile based coastal defense system. MaxDefense also concluded then that considering the external threat the country faces, it would not be best to divert the funding for internal security operations related equipment.

The IMI Lynx self-propelled rocket/missile launcher system is an integral part of the Coastal and Island Defense System from IMI.

But just within this week, the earlier MaxDefense blog was overtaken by events and flooding of additional open information, thus the need to provide a new blog entry to further discuss the issue. We tried to conenct all the information already made available online and be as close as we can get to what probably happened.

To discuss in a more accurate manner, MaxDefense will divide this entry into several sections. You may also refer to our previous blog entry on this issue:

The Philippine Army's Shore Based Missile System Project, and Issues on Re-Aligning its Budget fo other Projects


Additional Information on the SBMS Project:

Due to the sensitivity of the project, MaxDefense could only provide limited information.

The SBMS is based on Israel Military Industries' Coastal and Island Defense System (CIDS), with a project cost of  Php 6.5 billion (around US$144 million). 

A photo of the CIDS from IMI.
Photo taken from IMI's website.

The SBMS, as discussed in the previous MaxDefense blog, will be composed of the IMI Lynx self-propelled rocket/missile launching system, launching pods and ammunition, support systems including radar and fire control equipment, and other auxiliary vehicles. MaxDefense cannot disclose the exact figures for security reasons. 

Based on the reports quoting IMI's letter posted by The Inquirer, it might be possible that a limited air defense system to protect the SBMS is included in the deal, and was planned to be available in time before the APEC Summit starts this November 2015. MaxDefense is still confirming this assumption at the moment.

Projectiles that were supposed to be included in the deal are the EXTRA semi-ballistic guided rocket which can be used for moving and stationary naval or ground targets, and the LAR-160 free flight artillery rocket which can be used for land targets.

The EXTRA (EXTended Range Artillery) tactical ballistic missile, is smaller but similar in concept to the US-developed ATACMS, has a range of up to 150 kilometers, and can carry a 120 kilogram warhead that can either be high explosive, explosive fragmentation, or cargo for around 500 IMI Bantam submunitions. MaxDefense has not confirmed yet if the offer for the SBMS project includes submunitions which could be a problem as the Philippines' policy bans such weapons to be used. But its other warhead option, the explosive fragmentation, is effective against amphibious assault forces, damaging or destroying aircraft aboard aircraft carriers and flattop amphibious assault ships, or disabling radar, sensors, communications systems, and onboard helicopters aboard warhsips.

It appears that both the Accular guided rocket and the Delilah-GL small surface-to-surface cruise missile were not included in the deal due to cost issues, but can easily be integrated if acquired by the Philippine Army later on.

Including all support and security units, the entire system is good enough for an entire Army artillery battalion.
The IMI EXTRA tactical ballistic missile is the main projectile to be used against naval threats under the SBMS project. IMI claims that it can hit moving targets with a hit accruacy of up to 10 meters.
Photo taken from IMI's website.

Timeline of Events: 

As reference, MaxDefense connected the information already released by the press based on the following reports:

The Standard - PH plans to tap Israel for missile launchers (15 June 2013)

The Diplomat - Philippines Seeks Air Defense System From Israel (18 June 2013)

Interaksyon - Israeli firms show defense products to Army (30 July 2013)

The Standard - Missile System Pushed (01 July 2015)

Interaksyon - In face of China Threat, DND seeks to realign P6.5-B missile program back to internal security (07 July 2015)

The Inquirer - Military leaders 'axed missile deal for helmets' (07 July 2015)

The Inquirer - DND defends shelving of missile project (07 July 2015)

The Inquirer - Why DND put on hold P6.5B Israeli missiles (08 July 2015)

Some of these reports were also used for the remainder of this blog entry, although links were provided in green for further reference.

# # # # # # #

The SBMS project, together with other defense projects that have offers from Israel, had been in the negotiating table between the Philippines' Department of National Defense (DND), Israel Military Industries Ltd. (IMI), and the Israel's Ministry of Defense (IMoD) since 2012.

It was reported that on June 2013, the DND considered acquiring air defense and MLRS systems from Israel. It also indicated that Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and a DND delegation went to Israel to sign agreements with Israeli companies IMI and Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd. (Rafael)

On July 2013, Israeli companies composed of IMI, Rafael, Elbit Systems, and Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI), displayed their wares and conducted product demonstrations to the AFP and DND officials at Fort Bonifacio. Among those listed in the report were MLRS, SAM, UAV, Night Fighting Systems, 155mm howtizers, and Command and Control equipment.

Going back to the SBMS, after 2 years of negotiations, the deal was reportedly finalized as a government-to-government acquisition only last 18 December 2014.

On February 2015, President Aquino approved in-principle some of the 28 projects under the RA 10349-covered Revised AFP Modernization Program (RAFPMP) worth Php60.143 billion. Although the SBMS was in the list, it was among those not approved in-principle due to comments made by the president. The president wanted the DND to check if the system does not violate the Convention of Cluster Munitions. As discussed by MaxDefense before, the IMI EXTRA guided rocket can actually be armed with submunitions if required.

By 05 March 2015, the DND submitted an approval request to Pres. Aquino for the PA's SBMS, together with 2 other projects for the PN. The endorsement was not signed for approval by the president for still unknown reasons.

But sometime on April 2015, the Philippine Army made a presentation to AFP and DND senior leaders, pointing out the need to move the acquisition of SBMS from 2015 to the next phase of the AFP Modernization due to emerging security threats against the terrorist groups Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and Abu Sayaff (ASG). 

The discussion was later made formal by Lt. Gen. Hernando Iriberri, Commanding General of the Philippine Army (CGPA) with a submission to the Gen. Pio Catapang, Chief of Staff of the AFP (CSAFP) sometime on May 2015, recommending the items to be acquired in place of the SBMS. The following were among those listed:

Individual Weapons:
  • 832 units of Designated Marksman Rifle (DMR) budgeted at Php149.760 million;
  • 32 units Long Range Sniper Rifle budgeted at Php17.280 million
Force Protection Equipment:
  • 39,889 units of Body Armor budgeted at Php1.356 billion;
  • 81,449 units of Helmet budgeted at Php1.221 billion;
Tactical Radios:
  • 150 units of 20W HF Manpack Radios budgeted at Php223.536 million;
  • 3,185 units of 2-5W VHF Handheld Radios budgeted at Php678.060 million;
Other Equipment:
  • 11,000 units of Night Fighting System budgeted at Php2.750 billion; 
  • 2 Lots of Chemical, Biological, Radiation, and Nuclear (CBRN) Equipment budgeted at Php103.402 million;
All for a total allocated budget of Php 6.5 billion. 

Designated Marksman Rifles were among those requested for acquisition using the budget allocated for the SBMS Project. 

Also on May 2015 after the CGPA's letter was received, CSAFP submitted an endorsement letter to Defense Secretary (SecDef) Voltaire Gazmin closely based on CGPA's letter of recommendation. It also indicated that the SBMS will instead be included in the 2nd Horizon phase of the RAFPMP covering the years between 2018 to 2022.

On 10 June 2015, Sec. Gazmin presented the recommendation by the CSAFP to senior leaders of the DND and AFP, and approved it for endorsement to the President after strong lobbying by senior Philippine Army oficials, including the Vice Chief of Staff of the AFP who hails from the PA as well.

By 15 June 2015, Sec. Gazmin presented the revised request for approval of several internal security-related infantry equipment projects to Pres. Aquino. But he has some queries, and asked to check the Designated Marksman Rifle requirement again. Only an in-principle approval was provided pending answers to the president's clarifications. As of this writing, MaxDefense sources confirmed that the president has yet to sign the approval of the endorsement.

After 3 days, a letter from IMI dated 18 June 2015 was sent directly to Pres. Aquino, following-up on the Notice of Award and Contract and promising the partial delivery of the system before the APEC Summit, but without mentioning of the realignment issues.

If MaxDefense is correct, the first time this issue of realignment was brought out to the public was on 01 July 2015 in a report from The Standard (Manila Standard Today) which first mentioned the realignment issues. MaxDefense clarifies that it was not the one that started publicizing this issue as erroneously claimed by a certain forums.


Status of Similar Projects as those Requested in the Realignment:

Even before the Philippine Army decided to shift the acquisitions away from the SBMS, the DND was already in the process of tendering or accepting delivery of several projects that are redundant to those the PA plan to acquire for Php 6.5 billion. Here are the following:

1. Force Protection Equipment: 
Currently the DND has an impending acquisition for 44,080 body armor for both the Philippine Army and Philippine Marine Corps. As logic dictates, it is expected that the Philippine Army will receive majority of the deliveries, probably around 38,000 to 39,000 units, as the PMC only has less than 10,000 men in its organization. Award of the project to Achidatex Nazareth Elite-Colorado Shipyard Joint Venture worth around Php1.4 billion was made on 28 July 2014. MaxDefense discussed this in a separate blog entry posted on 31 August 2014. It was expected that they will deliver their first shipment on 26 February 2015. But there were news reports saying that the first batch of 20,000 units has not arrived, even after being given a time extension until 29 June 2015. So far there was no press release from the DND to confirm if the contract with the joint venture was terminated.

Prior to this specific project, there was also an impending acquisition for 3,480 units of body armor worth Php120 million, which was awarded to Serbian company UM-Merkata DOO Sabac in 2012. Defense officials previously stated in interviews that the body armor were defective, although an arbitration case is currently ongoing to settle this issue. MaxDefense was informed that the body armor are still stored in an AFP warehouse and has not been issued to the troops.

So far there are no impending projects with the DND to acquire helmets for the Philippine Army.

Army troopers during the Zamboanga siege. Out of the 5 soliders in the photo, only 1 has a helmet, and none with body armor. MaxDefense believes that force protection equipment is important, but should be acquired properly.

2. Night Fighting Equipment:
There is also an impending tender to acquire 4,464 sets of Night Fighting Equipment worth Php1.116 billion for the Philippine Army. Bidding has yet to commence due to several reasons, but this project is bound to commence the tender process within this year. A separate MaxDefense blog entry dated 13 May 2015 has discussed this project, including the possible bidders as reported by the press.

3. Handheld and Manpack Radios:
The Philippine Army recently acquired several military-spec radios similar to those requested as part of the realignment. The project was covered by a Foreign Military Sales (FMS) contract with the US company Harris Corp. That particular acquisition project involved 60 units of 50W HF Radios and 1,446 units of 2-5W Handheld Radios.

The project status is currently on the delivery stage, and based on the previous performance of Harris Corp. in terms of meeting its delivery schedules, MaxDefense does not see any problem with them. Should the Philippine Army acquire more radios, it is expected that Harris will definitely get the deal under another FMS deal for system commonality.

Communication equipment from Harris Corp. is standard with the Philippine Army, and there is a need to acquire more. But it should be according to proper procedure.
Photo taken from CGPA 100 Days Magazine c/o Timawa forum.

Irregularities on the Realignment:

President Aquino clearly stated several times in the past, that as president of the republic, he supports the Armed Forces of the Philippines' shift from internal security operations to territorial defense to defend from an agressive powerful neighbor, and reported that the overall security situation of the country from internal threats are getting lower. MaxDefense believes that the president's claim is true, based on the reduced reports of fighting between the AFP and insurgent groups.

So why suddenly shift an major territorial defense equipment to acquire several items for internal security operations? In fairness to CGPA's reasons, it is not really a terrible decision to improve the equipment used by the troops on the ground to support their operations against terrorist and insurgents that continue to operate in the country. But it was a terrible decision to take the budget of an equally important project to fund his recommended projects

MaxDefense has several issues on this move by the defense establishment:

1. Failure to Follow the IRR of the Revised AFP Modernization Act:

As claimed by several reports, the entire process of realigning the project did not follow the standard procedure as prescribed by the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the Revised AFP Modernization Act. These includes not allowing the revised project to pass through the Defense Capability Assesment and Planning Systems (DCAPS) and the Defense System of Management (DSOM), both are frameworks included under the Defense Acquisition System (DAS).

Recent press release by the DND claims that the revision did pass the DSOM process, considering the "consideration of the dynamics of the country's ever changing security environment". But based on MaxDefense's own analysis, with guidance from sources privy to DAS process, it is questionable on how it passed DSOM and DCAPS when the time between the submission of CGPA of the recommendation until the approval of the revision by the defense secretary only a month to complete?

According to sources, normally it takes several months, or even years, to create a plan for a certain defense project, including being assessed by military and defense officials, and even by consultants and specialists, passing through the DAS process, before being brought for endorsement for acquisition. But for this case, it took less than 1 month from the submission of recommendation by the CGPA to approval by the SecDef for not just 1, but 8 separate projects.

It is definitely questionable for the Philippine Army and DND to complete such assessment in such short time. If their claim is even possible, then we should have not been experiencing too much delays in planning the defense acquisitions of other projects.

2. Claims that the SBMS is "Merely a Proposal"

As stipulated in the DND press release dated 07 July 2015, they claim that the project is "merely a proposal" and has not moved beyond being a proposal. But MaxDefense has doubts on this as well.

The media reports indicate that the DND, IMI and IMoD took 2 years to negotiation this deal, and it was only considered finalized during the meeting between IMI and DND on 18 December 2014. IMI insists that the deal was finalized during that meeting.

This was again eveident on the letter from IMI to Pres. Aquino, wherein IMI commited during the negotiations that once an award is made, IMI would be able to start delivering and activating the system before the APEC Summit in November 2015. This, even if the delivery date is expected to be further after the president's term is over. MaxDefense believes that such a request was agreed upon by IMI because it possibly hold the DND's word that a Notice of Award (NOA) would be given soon.

The SBMS project was among the items being requested for approval with Pres. Aquino in its endorsement dated 05 March 2015. In-principle, the project was already approved, pending some queries of Pres. Aquino with regards to the cluster munition issue. The point that it was for approval means that the project was already finalized

Based on these reasons, the SBMS could not be just a mere proposal, but is an actual project ready for approval and award.

3. Acquiring Equipment that are Similar to Ongoing Projects:

Four of the replacement projects for the SBMS are actually similar and redundant to projects currently being implemented / for implementation for the Philippine Army, namely the Body Armor, Night Fighting System, and the 2 Radio-related projects.

Based on their own press releases, the Philippine Army has somewhere around 85,000 members. MaxDefense assumes that they currently have several thousand helmets and body armor already in inventory, probably with more helmets than body armor based on what is seen during operations of the Army covered by the press.

The current project awarded to Achidatex Nazareth Elite-Colorado Shipyard JV will cover around 36,000 (based on MaxDefense estimates) as the rest will go to the Philippine Marine Corps. Based on the list submitted by the Army, they are requesting to acquire 39,889 body armors and 81,449 helmets.
  • As indicated in the press reports, their sources are questioning why all members of the Philippine Army need to have body armor and helmet? Not all PA soldiers are assigned in the field, do they need body armor as well? 
  • Also, why is the requirement for helmet so huge at 81,449 pcs., and together with those already in army inventory, are more than enought to cover the entire organization membership! This is only acceptable if the PA is plannng to replace its helmet inventory. But the Army just bought thousands of helmets a few years ago, while it also received several thousand kevlar helmets as assistance by the US government in the past. Is there really a need to replace all helmets with a new one? 
  • With 2 body armor acquisition projects still pending (from UM Merkata and Achidatex-Colorado JV), why is it not possible to settle these projects first, since these are already approved and awarded projects waiting to be completely delivered.
Should the Army decide to acquire additional body armor, it would best if they can allow Achidatex-Colorado JV to complete their contract first, so that future acquisitions could be determined based on commonality. If Achidatex-Colorado fails to complete their contract, then the 4th lowest calculated bidder, MKU Pvt. Ltd. of India, may have the chance of supplying the body armor (Achidatex-Colorado is the 3rd lowest calculated bidder after Kolon & UM Merkata DOO who were both disqualified). So it might probably take more time to determine who can really supply body armor to the Philippine Army.

The Philippine Army is scheduled to receive almost 40,000 new body armor from its "Force Protection Equipment" project with the Philippine Marine Corps. Would it not be better if the PA complete this project first before another similar project comes in?
Photo taken from Achidatex Nazareth Elite's website.

The same is true for the Night Fighting System. MaxDefense believes that it would be best for the DND complete the current NFS project for the Army, whose bidding has not yet even started, before another NFS project comes online.

An arguement pointed out by the media reports with regards to the NFS is on the required number needed by the PA. Currently the PA will acquire 4,464 sets, and MaxDefense assumes that there are also several more in PA's inventory. Adding 11,000 NFS for the PA would increase the total expected inventory to almost 17,000 sets, or a ratio of 1 NFS for every 5 soldier. It is up to experts in the field to determine if this ratio is too much or just enough, but arguements presented in media reports say that this is excessive.

The Philippine Army has an ongoing project to acquire 4,400+ sets of Night Fighting Equipment, similar to the systems installed on the rifle above. Why not let it finish first before another similar project is implemented?
Photo taken from UDMC's FB page.

As for the other acquisitions, MaxDefense believes that these are also needed equipment as they can be used not only for interal security operations but also for territorial defense. But why is it not possible to acquire these projects by requesting a separate project instead of using a budget of another equally important project?

If the Philippine Army believes that these 8 projects are very urgent and are really important, it would have been better if they requested special funding for them. But still, it has to follow the implementing rules and regulations of the Revised AFP Modernization Act like all other projects.

Rappler previously identified Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin as "the untouchable" due to his closeness to the president. If that's the case, why not let him use that strength into value by asking the president to consider the acquisition of infantry equipment using a new budget, instead of diverting funds from the SBMS project?
Photo taken from Rappler.

More Questions Raised than Answers on Shelving the SBMS?

The current stand of the PA and DND is that this was "following the ever changing dynamics of the country's security environment". But MaxDefense finds this reason too flimsy. Instead, there are more questions now raised on the PA's decision to shelve the SBMS project. Aside from MaxDefense's own questions, here are among the reasons that were posted by people in the social media:
  • Following the reasons above, would it have been better if the Philippine Army gave importance to fund the delivery of 114 M113A2 armored personnel carriers granted by the US governement and still in California, USA to protect the troops from ambushes and IED attacks while on the move? Using armored vehicles while on the move instead of soft-skinned vehicles like army trucks and those Kia KM-450 is the best protection the Army can give to its troops, and until now this issue is still unresolved and the Philippine Army already holds the ball to have these armored vehicles delivered. Previously the reason used by the PA is lack of funding to have these vehicles delivered to the Philippines.
  • Is body armor really the answer to save troops from IED blasts? MaxDefense believes it is not, since IEDs can even criple and destroy tanks and armored vehicles, so what more for soft human tissues covered with a little patch of armor in the head and body? They could have just been realistic by saying that the force protection equipment can protect the troops from enemy fire and reducing the risk of fatal wounds, rather than using IEDs as a reason.
  • Is the security environment of the country changing? MaxDefense believes that it is changing, but was expecting it to be for the better, especially on internal security. According to earlier remarks made by Pres. Aquino himself, the AFP is shifting from being focused on internal security, to defending the country from external and natural (environmental) threats. So now, the PA and DND's plan is totally opposite of what the president claims.
  • The Philippine Army has been experiencing IED attacks for decades, ever since the NPA and Moro rebels and terrorist groups started operating in the country. The only difference now is the technology used to detonate the IED, but the concept is still the same. So what's the difference now and before that suddenly needed the acquistion of all these protective equipment?
  • The CGPA used the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) as among the reasons for the SBMS realignment. Was he giving the idea that the government is expcting the BBL to fail, and is expecting that Mindanao would go back to chaos once this agreement be scrapped? This is in total conflict with President Aquino's announcement of trust with the MILF and the so-called Bangsamoro people, who already declared that war is not an option even if BBL fails to take-off.
  • The AFP has been declaring that the strength of the NPA is declining for several years now, and claimed that the IPSP Bayanihan strategy is working. So were they telling the public hoax information before, by proving that the NPA is still an effective force by acquiring more and better infantry equipment?
  • Why is the SBMS project assigned with the Philippine Army in the first place, when it could have been better that the Philippine Navy took charge of this project as it was designed to defend the country against seaborne threats. This is a very clear scope of the Philippine Navy.
  • Is the Philippine Army ready to shift from being an interal security branch of service into a force that could defend the country from external threats? Or being a country with no land borders with other countries has rendered the Philippine Army a force in waiting for a threat to come only after the Philippine Navy and Air Force are decimated in combat?
  • CGPA Lt. Gen. Iriberri is from the Army. VCSAFP Lt. Gen. Bonafos is from the Army. CSAFP Gen. Catapang is from the Army. DefSec Gazmin was from the Army. All four agreed and approved of the realignment. Is there no love in the Army for fighting an enemy that can't be seen from the shore?
Aside from these questions, there are many more that you can see in the social media but are too delicate to discuss because of its negative view of the Philippine Army, the AFP, and the DND itself. MaxDefense decides not to raise them here for obvious reasons.

An Israeli Magach 7C main battle tank, showed here with a breached hull made by an exploding IED. So is it really possible for body armor and helment to protect the troops from IED explosions?

A Kia KM-450 utility vehicle ambushed by rebel groups, unarmored and unprotected from enemy fire, resulting to the death of Army soldiers. Is it not better if the Philippine Army acquire more armored vehicles, specifically MRAP or MRAP-like vehicles to protect its troops from IED or ambushes?

The Philippine Army is scheduled to receive 114 M113A2 armored personnel carriers from the US, but it has to shoulder the delivery to the Philippines. Isn't it better if the Philippine Army solve the issue of funding to bring in these assets first, which were designed to protect troops during movement and in combat?
Photo taken from the Mechanized Division Philippine Army website.

Other Possible Reasons for the Realignment:

Aside from the reason raised by the military and defense leaders as pointed out on the DND's press release, it is not farfetch that people can think of other reasons. MaxDefense thinks that these are possible as well.
  • Is it possible that CGPA is getting back against the Philippines representative of IMI, Stone of David Corp., whose sister company, Joavi Philippines Corp. was responsible for filing a graft case against Lt. Gen. Iriberri with the ombudsman with regards to his shelving of 3 ammunition projects supplied by the said company? 
  • Is the defense establishment unsatisfied with acquiring the IMI's CIDS system for the SBMS project, so they prefer to move it to the next phase and let the next leaders decide on it?
  • Were people involved in the project dissatisfied that, with SBMS being a government-to-government deal, they are not able to get any kickback from the project?
  • Did the defense officials found out something wrong with IMI's product, or with IMI itself, the led them to decide to more away from the deal without informing the public?
Joavi Philippines Corp. has filed a graft case against CGPA, Lt. Gen. Iriberri, in relation to shelving 3 ammunition projects supplied by the said company. The company is the sister company of Stone of David Corp., the Philippine representative of Israel Military Industries, who was chosen to supply the SBMS Project.
Photo taken from Joavi Philippines Corp. website.


MaxDefense believes that overturning the decision to acquire the Shore Based Missile System without a comparable replacement to offer is a blow to the Philippines' bid to defend itself from external threats. Not 100% effective as it seems, the SBMS is currently the only weapons system that is moving, and that has a direct threat to enemy forces operating within the country's naval domain. Not only is the SBMS a physical weapon, but it is also a sign that the Philippines is serious in defending its claims and territorial intergrity against foreign aggression, and that is serious in shifting its priorities to territorial defense. It also gives confidence to Filipino troops in the Kalayaan Group of Islands, giving them a sense of relief that there is something the military can use in face of an seaborne invasion on the islands.

MaxDefense also believes that replacing the project with infantry related weapons is not totally wrong, but should have been done properly, following the parameters of the Defense Acquisition System brought upon by the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the Revised AFP Modernization Act. This was made to safeguard the defense acquisition process from irregularities, and should be implemented in accordance to the law.

It would have been best as well, that if the Army really needs these equipment, they should have instead requested for emergency funding instead of taking the budget out of an equally important project. If they are confident that their reason is strong enough, MaxDefense believes that the government can do some adjustments to fund the infantry equipment.

MaxDefense also believes that it would be better if the AFP and DND review again who should be responsible in handling the SBMS assets. Being a system that was designed to engage hostile forces from the sea, MaxDefense believes that it would be best to let the Philippine Navy, specifically the Philippine Marine Corps, have the SBMS project instead of the Philippine Army. The PMC and PN are both tasked to complement each other and has common interests in defending against seaborne threats. The PMC, being a land force as well, can make use of the artillery capability of the Lynx MLRS using the LAR-160 rockets aside from firing on enemy ships.

This sudden move by the Philippine Army and Department of National Defense has just turned into a mess that would probably become a magnet for investigation, be used by the groups and people who have their own vested interests against the current leadership and administration of Pres. Aquino. 

Even worse, the integrity and schedule of the entire AFP Modernization effort might be affected because of this. And with that inter-service rivalry still strong in the AFP, MaxDefense expects the men of the Philippine Navy and Philippine Air Force to curse their Army counterparts if that happens.

Who's happy in the end with all this crap? None other than China, who sees the disunity in the defense establishment of the country as music to their ears, and a weakness that they can take advantage of.

Compared to the Philippine Army, the Philippine Marine Corps has a greater stake in defending against naval threats. The Marines should be the one having the SBMS instead of the Philippine Army.
Photo taken from GMA News website.