The Philippine Fleet is a branch of the country's armed services. It also has land and some air capabilities. The mission of the Philippine Fleet is to organize, train, equip, maintain, and operate Fleet forces for naval operations in order to fulfill the Philippine Navy Mission. The Fleet prepares surface platforms, aircraft and special operations assets for the conduct of operations pertaining to internal security, maritime security, external defense, disaster response, and development assistance. It is also pursuing a modest capability upgrade as one of its objectives.
The Fleet has seven task forces, three type forces and four type groups. The Ready Force is responsible for the operational readiness of Fleet vessels, aircraft, and SEAL teams and operates these forces mostly to address operational demands. The Patrol Force prepares and provides patrol ships for duty. The Service Force is responsible for preparing auxiliary transport and amphibious ships dedicated for sea lift and amphibious operations. The Assault Craft Force prepares patrol gunboats, patrol craft and small craft for naval operations.
The Naval Air Group comprises naval air assets. It prepares and provides these forces for naval operations with assets mainly for maritime reconnaissance and support missions. Another noteworthy unit is the Naval Special Operations Group, home of the sea, air, and land, or SEAL force of the Philippine navy. It prepares and provides highly trained teams that are capable of conducting special sea, air and land operations. The Fleet Training Group is responsible for the individual, team and unit Training requirements of the Fleet. Supporting the logistical and administrative requirements is the Fleet Support Group. This unit also undertakes disaster relief and rehabilitation missions to affected towns and villages in times of calamities.
The Philippine Fleet maintains one rapid deployment force and six territorial task forces in line with the One Fleet Team Concept. The Task Force Commander takes under his wing the other Fleet units in the area for optimization of their operations and better administrative support.
Naval Task Force 80 is the rapid deployment force that has the capability to muster forces and deal with contingencies in all areas of the archipelago. Seven Assault Craft Squadrons are also maintained together with ten Naval Special Operations Units and seven Naval Air Units deployed across the nation.
Naval Operational Commands are tasked to protect and defend the country's maritime areas within each respective Area of Responsibility. They have capabilities for conducting territorial defense operations, internal security operations and such other activities to support naval administration, logistics, service support and community development in their area of responsibility.
- 1) NAVAL FORCES NORTH - responsible for the naval defense and security in Northern Luzon
- 2) NAVAL FORCES SOUTH - responsible for the naval defense and security in Western Mindanao
- 3) NAVAL FORCES WEST - responsible for the naval defense and security in the Western Philippines and Kalayaan Island Group.
- 4) NAVAL FORCES CENTRAL - responsible for the naval defense and security in the Visayas
- 5) NAVAL FORCES SOUTHERN LUZON - responsible for the naval defense and security in the Southern Luzon Area.
- 6) NAVAL FORCES EASTERN MINDANAO - responsible for the naval defense and security in the Eastern part of Mindanao.
- 1) To provide assets that will conduct continuous naval patrol, sea control and amphibious operations to defend the sovereignty of the country, its territorial waters and EEZ from foreign aggression, intrusion and exploitation.
- 2) To assist in the conduct of national security operations and ensure the safety and security of coastal areas.
- 3) To employ assets to assist in the conduct of disaster response, particularly maritime search and rescue and patrol, sealift and other types of operations as directed.
The heightened consciousness of the fragility of marine ecosystems has enjoined the Navy to more aggressively protect the country's extensive marine ecology. Moreover, the full implications of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas, which the Philippines signed in 1982, have only lately been appreciated. While the convention has restricted and defined the boundaries of the Philippines' sea territory, it has also provided the country a 200-mile belt around the archipelago known as the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
But this comes with a price: There will be additional security and defense costs to secure this large area. The convention, in fact, allows innocent passage and archipelagic sealane passage which can be exploited by unscrupulous and unfriendly elements to exploit the country's resources or denigrate Philippine sovereignty. A dispute with Taiwan in 1991 over the "innocent passage" of Taiwanese vessels in fish-rich areas in the north and northeast was just one example of the security challenges that the convention imposes upon the Philippines. That dispute was settled thanks to the sincerity of both governments. Other states may not be as straightforward as Taiwan.
These recent development should provide guideposts for the Philippine navy in the coming years. Perhaps they augur for a future that will see a closer welding of the fortunes of the Navy and the nation as a whole. Depending on the degree to which government comes to terms with the country's marine realities and pursues the modernization of the Navy, the nation may ascend or falter, like the ebb and flow of the waves that surround the Philippines, and like the rise and fall that characterizes much of history.In March 2008, the Navy admitted that it lacked the ability to defend its Spratly Islands claims against the other contender nations.
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