(A speech delivered by VICE ADMIRAL FERDINAND S GOLEZ AFP, Flag Officer In Command, Philippine Navy before Deans of Colleges, Faculty Members, and Students of Miriam College on 22 September 2009)
On behalf of the men and women of the Philippine Navy, I am distinctly pleased to be here today, to meet you all, students and faculty members of the College of International, Humanitarian and Development Studies here at Miriam College. It is such a rare privilege for the Navy, your Navy, to be given this opportunity to mingle with the future international politics and development experts of our country. I consider this as one of the greatest honors in my service life. Thank you very much for inviting me here.
Upon receiving your invitation from one of the passionate advocates for maritime nationhood, Dean Leticia Ramos-Shahani, the first thing that came to my mind was that: I should not miss this rare chance to acquaint you all with updates, on the realities that confront our state as a maritime nation and how your Philippine Navy is doing its best to address such concerns and opportunities. I would like also to emphasize upon you the significance of your Navy in the past, at present and in the future, and the seeming potentials of our country as a maritime power.
Let me begin by asking you this very simple question, are we divided by waters, or united by seas?
The Philippines is an archipelago and an archipelagic state. By definition from the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea or UNCLOS, an archipelago consists of a group of islands, including parts of islands, interconnecting waters and other natural features which form an intrinsic geographical, economic, and political entity, or which have been historically regarded as such. The archipelagic design of our country is not a random coincidence. We are geo-strategically located at the heart of Southeast Asia. Our 7,100 islands, 300,000 square kilometers area with 36,289 kilometers of coastline provides us with the sustenance of our people, a source of wealth for our entrepreneurs, and a bridge that links one barangay to another and one island to another to form our archipelago.
As an archipelago, inevitably we have a rich maritime heritage and a legacy which transcended centuries. Filipino society flourished by the coasts with the surrounding seas as their enduring inspiration. Early Filipinos developed advanced techniques in boat-making, and developed maritime commerce among the islands of the archipelago. Indeed, the master of seas and oceans is our birthright, our identity. We are historically seafaring people. We are pre-destined to become a maritime power.
The naval strategist Alfred Thayer Mahan explicitly described that a great navy is a mark and prerequisite of national greatness. He described the six elements of being a maritime power. These are geographic position pertaining to the easy access to major trade routes; physical conformation or having vast seaboard and numerous deep ports; extent of territory or the proportion of population to the length of the coastline; number of population engaged in sea-going occupations; character of the people leaning towards commerce; and character of the government which builds a strong navy.
Relating these elements to our own potentials, the Philippines is a strategic niche, archipelagic in nature, which prompts easy access to major trade routes from interior via rivers and bays, not to mention the five international shipping routes that passes through the country. We are also at the apex of the coral triangle, having the most diverse coral reefs in the world. We have numerous deep and safe harbors that accommodate our naturally seafaring people. And the country is 5th in the world to have the easiest accessibility to the coast; having over 36 thousand kms of coastline, with 65 of the 81 provinces coastal.
Our glorious maritime history together with the making of a potential maritime power should only lead us to becoming what we are destined to be, towards our fate as an archipelago, that of maritime dominance. And indeed, we had a glorious past as a maritime power but through the years, we have disregarded this greatness and developed a continental awareness despite the distinctly coastal society.
Our country’s geographical form also presents us increasingly complex challenges, such as preservation of sovereignty over our vast waters, entry of maritime security threats, occurrences of maritime terrorism, as well as the onslaught of calamities and environmental disasters, both natural and man-made.
Because of the extent of the country’s maritime jurisdiction, that is about 2.2 million square kilometers, maritime security preservation in the Philippines has been a collaborative undertaking among various government agencies that coordinate in the strategic and operational levels. The Philippine Coast Guard, under the Department of Transportation and Communications, is the government agency that has the primary responsibility of promoting safety of life and property at sea and safeguards the marine environment and resources among others. The Armed Forces of the Philippines, under the Department of National Defense is mandated to be the protector of the people and the state. Its goal is to secure the sovereignty of the state and the integrity of the national territory. It is in this light that the Navy plays a crucial role, responsible for the naval defense of our maritime nation against all enemies, both foreign and domestic.
It is imperative, then, that we should have a strong and credible navy. A navy is a symbol of its nation’s pride and a versatile instrument of national power. Thus, we in the Philippine Navy, your Navy, hopes to reawaken our nation’s true identity as a maritime nation, to revive the maritime consciousness among our people so that we can set sail towards our destiny, regain our pride as heirs of a sophisticated maritime culture and develop our potentials as a maritime power.
Your Navy today remains committed to the defense of a united archipelagic Philippines and the security of our maritime economy as our vision proudly proclaims: “by 2020, we shall be a strong and credible navy that our maritime nation can be proud of.” We have formulated our roadmap, we call the Philippine Navy Strategic Sail Plan 2020, that serves as a blueprint for evolving towards a more responsive maritime institution that can address the needs of the Navy’s various stakeholders. Dean Shahani, other than being one of the very dedicated members of the Philippine Navy Board of Advisers, also helped us in crafting our Sail Plan.
In order to confront all possible security challenges of today as well as prepare for the future, your Navy performs while transforming. The Navy is the relevant force of the future, fighting on multi-dimensional battle space - on water, through our ships, manned by our trained and highly competent sailors; on air through the Navy’s air assets, manned by our highly-skilled naval aviators; on land, best exemplified by the elite fighting force, the fearless officers and enlisted men of the Philippine Marine Corps, and someday even beneath the surface of our seas.
With these capabilities, your Navy has traditionally three roles: military, constabulary and diplomatic. The military role addresses the call to secure and defend the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the Philippines. This involves fleet-marine operations exploiting the ability of the force to maneuver from the sea that permits the application of military capabilities and sustainment of units. Further, naval presence is maintained within the Philippine’s area of maritime jurisdiction to reinforce claims in disputed territory and contested waters.
The diplomatic role prompts the Navy to contribute to regional peace and stability, and prevent inter-state conflicts. Your Navy ensures that its actions are for peaceful purposes and aims for cooperation rather than dispute with allied or partner navies. The Philippine Navy conducts a wide range of military and non-military activities designed to promote peace and security and enhance maritime security cooperation in the region.
The constabulary role is concerned with preserving the internal peace and unity of the Philippine archipelago. Your Navy, as an active guardian of national development, conducts inter-agency operations which pertains to coordinative efforts with other maritime enforcement agencies, such as the Philippine Coast Guard, Maritime Industry Authority, the Philippine National Police-Maritime Group, and the Bureau of Fisheries among others. In this cooperative regime, your Navy leverages its strength and competency with the mandate and expertise of our sister agencies in order to fulfill our non-core tasks under a delegation scheme. These include enforcement of our customs, narcotics, fisheries, environmental, and forestry laws and regulations.
At this time, as I speak before you, your Navy is out there principally in the Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-tawi archipelago leading the way as the main security force in that part of our country. As envisioned, we aim to attain genuine peace in this area in Mindanao as a prelude to its progress and development. Similarly, your Navy was the main effort in the search and rescue operations of the ill-fated Superferry 9 where hundreds of lives were saved on the Sulu Sea. Likewise, one of our capital ships, BRP QUEZON PS70, just completed her humanitarian mission in the island province of Batanes, where your Navy ably delivered diesel fuel for the NAPOCOR powerplant for sustained power generation of the province, as well as transported basic commodities for the residents of Batanes. If the Navy can lead the way in these representative areas of our country, there is no reason why we will not be as relevant for the entire nation.
Ultimately, your Navy is mandated to protect a wide range of our domestic interests at sea and in the coastal areas. Despite the limitation in resources, we continually address challenges that confront the peace and prosperity of our country.
So to answer my question earlier, as far as your Navy is concerned, the sea as our maritime space is not a physical obstacle but rather a bridge that transcends the physical separation of our islands thus linking each and every community to one archipelago, one identity, one Filipino maritime nation. It is a consolidating element of national identity and a way forward towards nationwide progress.
Your Navy is a firm believer in the Filipino maritime nation. We hope that all of you here will share in our dream of reaching naval prominence for the country’s welfare which ultimately will lead to naval dominance for lasting peace, progress, and development.
Before closing, please allow me to show you a video that I hope will enlighten you more, encourage you and other members of your family to serve our maritime nation, through our Philippine Navy.
In closing, in behalf of the Philippine Navy, let me thank you again for giving me this opportunity to spend a few hours with all of you, the great honor is mine.
Good Navy day to all! Go Navy Fleet-Marine team!!!