Naval Strategies: How Philippine Navy operates to fight Maritime Crimes

Naval Strategies: How Philippine Navy operates to fight Maritime Crimes
  • PublishedMay 10, 2023

Since the establishment of the Philippines itself, naval strategy has played a major role in the development of this southeast Asian country. Their naval forces continued to develop in order to combat the colonial powers of Spain and the United States. In the modern era, the Philippine Navy has quickly had to adapt in order to fight complex international issues like piracy and illegal fishing with the help of alliances and international collaborations. With time, it’s expected that the Philippine Navy will need to adapt and adopt ecology preservation into its broader body of naval strategies in order to protect the interests of Filipinos.

History of the Philippine Navy

The history of the Philippine Navy dates back thousands of years. Early records from Spaniard sailors suggest that Visayan Filipinos (also known as Pintados) were known as especially fierce amphibious combatants, as they used warships called Kora-Koras to fend off Spanish invaders. The Kora-Koras were highly advanced ships that gave the Visayans a clear advantage in their naval strategy, as they could reach speeds of up to 15 knots — Spanish galleons could only reach 6 knots — and could carry over 200 warriors and 6 cannons. Due to their prowess in marine combat, Filipinos were able to effectively fight off invading Spaniards and to lead fierce attacks against established Spanish forts.

As the decades passed, marine combat continued to be one of the most effective methods through which the Philippines were protected against invaders. During the 1896 revolution against the Spaniards, El Presidente Emilio Aguinaldo established the Revolutionary Navy in order to fight against the Spaniards and reclaim territory within the Philippines. Just 2 years after the Revolutionary Navy was established, sailors led by the Navy’s Admiral Vicente Catalan were successful in seizing Subic Bay. Several naval bases were quickly established across the Philippines. As the United States grew interested in seizing territory within the Philippines, however, the Philippine Navy began to face a new and unprecedented challenge.

The Philippine Navy was unable to win against the stronger American forces. As a result, the Philippines entered an American colonial era. This led to many significant developments within the Philippine Navy. The occupying Americans quickly began to employ Filipino sailors in their new Bureau of the Coast Guard and Transportation. Additionally, they reopened the former colonial Spanish Escuela Nautica de Manila as the Philippine Nautical School, introducing many of the methods and teachings they used in the United States Naval Academy. As Filipinos enlisted in the U.S. Navy, they quickly became familiar with foreign naval strategies and were able to combine them with their own lived experiences.

Following the end of World War II and the liberation of the Philippines in 1945, the Philippine Navy was reestablished as a major arm of the country’s combat forces as the Philippine Naval Patrol. It was later renamed the Philippine Navy. The Philippine Navy quickly became one of the most formidable naval forces in southeast Asia. As other southeast Asian countries gained independence, the Philippine Navy was a significant force in maintaining stability and helping countries establish basic naval forces. This era of power ended in 1992, when the United States withdrew from its naval bases in the Philippines. Since then, the Philippine Navy has slowly regrown in order to fill the vacuum left behind and regain power as a powerful defensive naval force within the region.

How does the Philippine Navy fight maritime crimes?

To the modern day, the Philippine Navy relies on international collaboration and significant efforts in marine warfare in order to combat issues like piracy. Like many other naval forces in southeast Asia, the Philippine Navy regularly partners with the U.S. Navy in order to strengthen maritime security and address concerns regarding piracy, human trafficking, illegal fishing, and drug smuggling. Due to their participation in international collaboration schemes like the Trilateral Cooperation Agreement (TCA), the Philippine Navy has observed notable decreases in the occurrence of crimes like piracy in nearby marine territories.

The Philippine Navy maintains a multifaceted approach to combating maritime crime. They are frequently responsible for significant crime busts, such as the arrest of 34 illegal fishermen near the Malampaya gas platform in 2018, and maintain a strong commitment to protecting the interests of Philippine citizens and their marine ecology. The Philippine Navy also remains involved in significant drug smuggling busts, such as the interception of five boats carrying smuggled cigarettes in November 2022.

The Philippine Center for International Crime is another significant driving force in the Philippine Navy’s fight against overseas crime, as the organization continues to be involved in incidents like the interception of a human trafficking boat carrying over 100 victims in 2019.

As the Philippine Navy continues to work to protect the interest of the country and its citizens, they will need to continue with stringent work to maintain and improve stability in the waters of southeast Asia. Piracy, illegal fishing, drug smuggling, and human trafficking all continue to represent significant threats to the continued operations of the Philippine Navy. If they hope to eliminate the issues entirely, they will need to address the governmental corruption, international conflict, and socio economic strife at the heart of many maritime crimes.

Future of the Philippine Navy

The future of the Philippine Navy appears to be bright. The Philippines continues to establish new organizations to address and combat complex components of the marine crimes that trouble the country.

In 2015, the National Coast Watch Center (NCWC) was established in order to improve the maritime governance and naval strategy of the Philippines. Other agencies, such as the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) and Philippine National Police-Maritime Group, will be essential in providing the support necessary for the continued fight against maritime crime.

International collaboration through alliances with significant naval powers like the United States will likely be another focus of the Philippines Navy. Additionally, it’s expected that protecting the country’s marine resources will prove to be a major component of the future naval strategy of the Philippine Navy.

The rising population within the Philippines, combined with the ecological issues of groundwater depletion, deforestation, and overfishing, will likely lead to ecology protections becoming a priority. Just as the Philippine Navy has adapted to protect the interests of the country before, it is likely that its forces will continue to adapt to the country’s future needs.

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