Monthly Archives: October 2016

PAF spending P67.96M on C295 spares

The Philippine Air Force currently has three separate bid invitations to supply spares for its CASA C295 cargo aircraft with a combined value of P67.96M. The Pre-Bid Conference for all three invites are set for November 2, 2016 at the PAF Procurement Center Conference Room in Villamor Air Force Base. Bids will be opened on the 15th.

The PAF has three C295s in its inventory, all of which were delivered in 2015.  The first aircraft was delivered on March 30, 2015, while the second aircraft arrived on September 15, 2015, and the third arrived on December 11, 2015.

All three bids are being monitored on the forum here.


Managing our allies’ perceptions

US-PH relations are at interesting point. Thrust into the equivalent of overdue adolescence, with all the uncertainty and discomfort that brings. As the incoming Ambassador and Malacanang chart a course through the “unknown”, they will invariably encounter American voices that embody the frame of mind that Duterte professes to oppose. Those who would believe that our past receipt of aid means that we are something to be “owned”. Like the one below. 

“America is a curious great power. It cowers before international lightweights, begging the least significant nations to let it defend them. Such as the Philippines,” he said in his opinioin piece.

“United States credibility suffers when a nation long subsidized and defended by America shows such ostentatious disrespect. The Philippine president shouldn’t be treated like a co-equal and ally if he doesn’t behave like one,” Bandow added. “Rather, Manila expects Washington’s protection even though the archipelago matters little for the United States.”

If we are an ally to be trusted . . . to be respected . . . we not only must be able to demonstrate that we are willing to fund our own defense but that application of that defensive capability will only be in accordance the Philippine national interest of the Philippines and its obligations as a responsible member of the international community.
Interested in discussing this further? See here.

Now, more than ever, the country needs a mature debate platform

The vitriol on the FB extension reached a crescendo with one troll who was peppering a thread with meaningless one-liners. He left one parting shot before his posting privileges revoked, which I decided to leverage as a way to remind folks why we’re really all here.


Reproducing the response here:

You are right about one thing Ronald, this group is messed up. But it is actually messed up because of people who argue the way you do. With zealotish-oneliners that do not contribute to knowledge or understanding. This group was not setup to support just one view. It was meant to foster EDUCATED and MATURE debate. That mean LEVEL-HEADED discussions that don’t let emotion overwhelm reason. What is sending this group to hell is not the current political situation. It’s because many group members have come to assume that anyone who doesn’t share their view is somehow less intelligent or less patriotic. People of equal cranial capacity can disagree people. There are “tards” on BOTH sides of the argument. You don’t become smart just for spouting a view or taking a side. It’s how you arrive at that view that makes that determination.

Want to comment on this post? See here.

“Sea denial” vs “Sea Control”

Thanks to a position paper published by Congressman Roilo Golez, the term “area denial” has entered mainstream Philippine social media discussions about tensions with China and territorial threats in the West Philippine Sea. But what exactly is “Sea Denial”? To fully appreciate that mission, one must also understand the super-set mission: “Sea Control”.

The following quotations provide an easy-to-follow layman’s guide to understanding these two concepts.

From an online excerpt of the book The Influence of Sea Power on History: 1600-1783, Boston: Little, Brown and Co, 1896 by Mahan, A. T. comes the following concise distinction between control and denial

Sea denial. Sea denial, or commerce-destroying, provides a means for harrying and tiring an enemy. It may be a means to avoid losing a war. It may cause “great individual injury and discontent”. But by itself, a sea denial strategy is not a war-winning one. Nor is it a particularly deterring strategy.

Sea Control. Sea control means, fundamentally, the ability to carry your, and your allies’, commerce across the seas and to provide the means to project force upon a hostile, distant shore. A sea controller must limit the sea denial capabilities of the enemy. To quote the Prophet again, “… when a question arises of control over distant regions, … it must ultimately be decided by naval power, …, which represents the communications that form so prominent a feature in all strategy.”

Between the two strategies, sea denial remains the lowest hanging fruit. Expensive capital ships are principal means of exercising Sea Control and is therefore often beyond the resources of most maritime nations. Even China initially started with this strategy as related by Hugh White, a professor of strategic studies at ANU. The paper not only points out China’s approach, but affirms the limitations of this strategy as explained above by Mahan

The Chinese have long understood that America’s sea control in the western Pacific has been the military foundation of its strategic primacy in Asia, and that the US Navy’s carriers are the key. They have therefore focused the formidable expansion of their naval and air forces over the past 20 years on trying to deprive the US of sea control by developing their capacity to sink American carriers. In this they appear to have been strikingly successful, to the point that US military leaders now acknowledge that their sea control in the western Pacific is slipping away.

But for China, depriving America of sea control is not the same as acquiring it themselves. Its naval strategy has focused on the much more limited aim that strategists call ”sea denial”: the ability to attack an adversary’s ships without being able to stop them attacking yours. These days, sea denial can be achieved without putting ships to sea, because land-based aircraft, long-range missiles and submarines can sink ships much more cost-effectively than other ships can. This is what China has done.

< Edited >

The central fact of modern naval warfare – which the Chinese grasp as well as anyone – is that sea denial is relatively easy to achieve, but control is extremely hard. We seem to be entering an era in which many countries can achieve sea denial where it matters to them most, but none can achieve sea control against any serious adversary.

The key take away from White’s thesis is the multi-dimensional nature of the strategy. To enable its own sea denial capability, the AFP needs to make investments in the airborne, maritime, and land-based systems listed above. The Philippine Navy currently has an ongoing acquisition project for brand new Frigates with explicit, albeit limited, Anti-Air, Anti-Surface, and Anti-Submarine Warfare capability. The Philippine Army is moving ahead with studies to acquire land-based Anti-Ship Missile systems. The Philippine Air Force is pursuing a variety of patrol and surface attack aircraft projects. All these efforts, as of writing, remain works-in-progress and their successful and timely completion is hardly assured.

While it is very unlikely that the Philippines will ever be able to make significant headway into sea control on its own, a sea-denial build-up will still put it in a better position to keep cadence with its allies. A coalition of countries with individual sea denial capabilities can approach sea control capability more effectively together than they could alone. A concerted effort to deploy sea-control-compatible assets, would also demonstrate the Philippines’ willingness to participate in an allied effort at sea control and establish its status as a reliable partner in such an allied effort, even if such assets can only maintain a tenuous presence in our EEZ when viewed in isolation.

To comment or discuss this article, see the following thread on the main forum: Sea Control vs Sea Denial.

Duterte rants: Foul language matters, but in more ways than most think

Duterte is crass and foul mouthed. Both of which are counter-productive for a high-profile position where diplomacy is part of the job description. We saw yet another example of that in his “Hitler” speech. This is currently being discussed on the main DRP forum here.

Euphemisms, expressions and statements that fall under the category of “inside jokes” do not translate well — even beyond domestic regional divides. If even non-Visayans have difficulty making contextual, rather than literal, interpretations of his speeches . . . what hope will a foreigner ever have. This adds avoidable, inexcusably unnecessary, complexity to our foreign relations. Even among our traditional allies who are — theoretically — more accustomed to our cultural idiosyncracies and our history.

In the speeches this month, even Duterte conceded to the issues his language is causing and has started to simply inaudibly mouthing his favorite expression rather than actually verbalizing it. Tacit acceptance that the prevailing state of affairs is, inherently, disadvantageous to the nation as a whole, and his administration in particular.

His demeanor creates problems that didn’t have to be there in a first place. Less unnecessary, extraneous, talk . . . less mistake. Only time will tell the extent to which Duterte FINALLY learns that lesson.

As inexcusable as the Hitler frackas is, there is a method to this madness. In fact, there is even a benefit to appearing mad. Let that sink for a bit . . . then continue reading.

This foul-mouthed persona fits in with a much broader narrative that fits his trademark approach to law enforcement — which remains his flagship initiative: Deterrence and fear management..

Duterte is a career government executive who knows how to motivate the population under his care. He is well acquainted with the tools at his disposal . . . to include fear, which he regularly wielded to deter criminals or implement behavioral adjustment when he was a mayor.

The power of fear greatly greatly benefits from uncertainty about the extent to which the President is willing to go against the enemies of the state. If one keeps this in mind . . . the rationale for his ill-chosen Hitler hyperbole becomes clear. Same goes for his threats to “kill” that he made throughout his campaign and even to this day. It is his intent to the be the drug lord’s worst nightmare, and what nightmare is scarier than Hitler?

Sounding like a mad-man, which a fair number of folks have actually come to believe, lends credibility to his threats.

What folks appear to be missing . . . is that it is actually WORKING. This is evidenced by the sheer number of individuals who’ve actually flooded the existing drug rehabilitation centers.

This is Psychological Operations at its finest. Any student of martial affairs ought to be familiar the following quote from Sun Tzu

“Hence to fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.”

If you can get your enemies, and those that would threaten your way of life, to abandon armed conflict peacefully — through a combination of incentives and the FEAR of consequences — then what responsible leader would not try?


Level-headed critics of the President’s methods rightly point out the need for checks and balances. Skeptical critics allege that the President’s threats and antics are evidence that the need for those checks are lost on the President.

It would do the latter category of critic well to remember that Duterte is more intimately familiar with the workings of Philippine jurisprudence than the majority of observers — both friend and foe alike. He was, after all, a government prosecutor before he entered politics.

The following excerpt from his inauguration speech is relevant to this discussion.

See time index 05:27:

“As a lawyer and former prosecutor, I know the limits of the power and authority of the President. I know what is legal and what is not. My adherence to due process and the rule of law is uncompromising”.

Now, consider the following statement he made both in Vietnam and his press conference in Davao after returning from Vietnam, he repeatedly said:

“There is nothing illegal about threatening criminals”

These are threats. Will he act on those threats? If you think he is really crazy . . .

His statements that challenge the status quo also dovetail well with his efforts to establish credibility with the enemies of the state whom he wants to abandon the armed struggle. This is true for both domestic and foreign enemies. His vocal anti-US stance actually neutralizes their go-to response to peace overtures — that the PH government is merely an “imperialist puppet” of the United States.

Any serious student of statecraft OUGHT to understand that conversations in front of the media are not the ONLY conversations that take place. The former can even be used to either obfuscate ongoing initiatives, or be used to extract concessions that would otherwise not be possible.

Naturally, the very nature of such discussions require them to remain out-of-sight. Given the controversial nature of the public pronouncements, which fly in the face of long-standing international norms, the diplomatic machines of world governing bodies and world powers are automatically obligated to issue official public rebukes, since failure to do so would appear to be tacit approval of such pronouncements.

Behind closed doors . . . it ought to be safe to say that more rational discussions are taking place. Absence of evidence of such discussions is often touted as evidence of absence. This complicates the delicate dance that Duterte is apparently making with the status quo. Complicated even further by his lack of tact.


But . . . what if Duterte REALLY crosses the line?

Every level-headed supporter of ANY point of view needs to be mindful of their “Red-lines”. Lines that should never be crossed is support for that point of view is to continue. Related to this, “trip wires” need to be laid down to warn of approach of that line . . . as well as when such lines are crossed.

Many have suggested that Duterte’s statements alone crossed any reasonable red lines. Especially his statements towards the US and overtures towards alternative powers, to inlude the unthinkable: China.

Let’s think about that for a moment.

The ultimate reason why relations with any country are strong in the first place is built upon in the sheer number of out-of-the-sight-of-media relations that exist at all levels of government. The periodic occupant of the Office of the President is but one such relation. It is, of course, a very important position as it dictates the course of foreign policy. But it does not sever all lines of communication and all linkages.

If all 71 years of US-PH relations can be irrepairably damaged by the antics of a single politician, then common-sense dictates that we question that strength — and nature — of that relationship in the first place. Look to the Netanyahu incident, prior to the 2012 US elections, for an example of how mature relations between independent nations can take dramatic turns, without permanent effects.

If we are ever to arrive at a resolution with China, a dialogue must take place. It would be foolish to pretend that they did not exist. One does not defeat a bully by ignoring him. You win by facing him. Standing up to him as the situation demands, and if necessary defuse the situation with calm words.

At this point in our history, we as a people need to reflect on what it means to be independent, and what it means to be an ally. If there is any legacy that Duterte can leave behind, it would at the very least be this conversation.

How does one know when such trip wires have been triggered? That is what discussion groups like the DRP are for. To foster frank, level-headed, discussions about where things are going. This is why Opus’ decision to shutdown the Timawa forum is atrociously ill-timed, and why it became necessary to create this alternative forum.