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Philippine Navy History

1945-1995: Revival of the Off Shore Patrol and the Philippine Navy

The Off Shore Patrol was reactivated on 1 October 1945 just after World War II. The OSP Training School was transferred to Cavite Naval Shipyard and renamed the OSP Training Center. The OSP was further expanded and became a major unit of the Philippine Armed Forces. On 4 October 1947, the OSP was renamed the Philippine Naval Patrol (PNP) during the time of President Manuel Roxas. President Elpidio Quirino followed through the naval organizational reforms of Roxas. On 5 January 1951, he issued Executive order No. 389 designating the Philippine Naval Patrol as the Philippine Navy to be composed of "all naval forces, combat vessels, auxiliary craft, naval air craft, shore installations supporting units necessary to carry out all the functions of the services."

Even before Quirino signed the order recasting the Naval Patrol into the Philippine Navy, his defense secretary, Ramon Magsaysay, had formed in 1950 a marine battalion as a unit of the Naval Patrol to carry out amphibious attacks on the Hukbalahap (Huk) communist guerillas in the coast, as well as to strike out against lawless elements. Their baptism of fire came in 1951 in Neuva Ecija when they overwhelmed a Huk camp. Three years later, the backbone of the Huk movement was destroyed.

The decade that followed the Navy's establishment as a major service of the Armed Forces saw it develop into an increasingly complex organization. Aside from the Marines, there emerged the Naval Shore Establishment, Naval Operating Forces, Philippine Coast Guard, Home Defense Command, the Military Sealift and Terminal Command and other major units of the service.

By the 1960s, the Philippine Navy was the envy of the region. Although the naval fleet consisted mostly of Second World War hand-me-downs from the US Navy, it was still-in the 1960s-relatively young, having been only around for 2 decades. The nascent nation-states in the region were only beginning to form their own navies and often looked to the Philippines for inspiration and guidance in maritime defense. For example, Indonesia signed a joint patrol agreement with the Philippines in 1961.

The Philippines at that time could never have anticipated that the principal dynamic that would turn back its naval-defense development would be a series of internal conflicts and political crises. These would not only make its strategic defense considerations shift even more inward, but also impair and lay to waste whatever defense system it had put up to deal primarily with external threats.

The need to quell the communist insurgency and the secessionist movement in Mindanao forced the government to put a premium on strengthening the groun-force capability of the Armed Forces. Vice Admiral Eduardo Ma. R. Santos, one of the past FOICs, pointed out that for more than 20 years the Navy's defense operations were confined to "blockage, naval gunfire support, and moving troops" in and out of far-flung conbat zones.

Aggravating the damage inflicted by these armed conflicts were the political crises stemming from declaration of martial law in 1972 by President Ferdinand Marcos and his establishment of "constitutional authoritarianism." This gave rise to pro-democracy challenges to his rule, leading to the assassination of his main political opponent Benigno Aquino Jr. This act, compounded by the collapse of the economy in 1983, led to and was further exacerbated by collapse of Marcos government itself in 1986. There followed aborted military putsches on the shaky democratic government of his successor, Corazon Aquino, severely disabling if not destroying whatever surviving defense materiel the Philippine still had at around that time.

By the time the situation appeared to be returning to normal in the early 1990s, the American naval and air forces, stung by the Philippine Senate's rejection of a treaty that would have prolonged their stay in the Philippines, were leaving with negative feelings. Suddenly, the Philippines saw its "surrogate" navy and air force heading for gates of Subic and Clark, leaving the remaining residents highly anxious about their national defense.

Retired Commodore Jose Francisco summed up the state of mind of the Navy, and perhaps the rest of the Armed Forces, after the American withdrawal: "All throughout the years the Americans were here, we had the military assistance agreement with them and logistical support from them, and all that the Philippine government had to do was pay our salaries. What happened was that we had indigestion. We knew it would not last, but when it did end, we were at a loss."

The American withdrawal was subsequently largely seen as the inevitable and natural consequence of the end of the Cold War and the close of bipolarism following the collapse of worldwide communism. The caveat was that it may have also resulted in a security vacuum in a region where tensions owing to deep-seated historic animosities and geopolitical disputes remained strong, a vacuum that might be filled up by next-in-line powers. The pull-out also drew renewed attention to Asian flashpoints, such as the Korean Peninsula and the Spratlys, that were seen as potential conflict zones.

These developments hastened the passage of the AFP Modernization Law in 1995. The law remained in effect as best hope of ever realizing a credible naval force for the Philippines. Modernization was also expected at the time to greatly enhance the Navy's capacity to fulfill certain non-traditional tasks it has to take on as a result of recent developments.

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