Should the Philippines increase military spending and prepare for war?

In the last couple of months, tension between China and the Philippines around claims of sovereignty over the Spratly Islands have escalated, punctuated most recently by the deployment of the Philippine Navy warship BRP Rajah Humabon which sailed on a “patrol” mission to the Scarborough Shoal off Zambales. The Armed Forces of the Philippines as part of its five-year modernisation program has also been shopping for military hardware, reportedly eyeing options for two fourth-generation jet fighters among other weapons.

For the Philippines, an impoverished Third World nation of 100 million, spending on a capability to wage war with a foreign country seems hardly the sort of priority that would trump other more “conventional” domestic problems like education, reproductive health, and unemployment. But then maybe we should consider how a military buildup might benefit the country’s economy and boost morale.

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Military spending stimulates economic activity and can create huge markets for local industry. It also creates employment — specially where large military facilities are located. In his book Sex, Bombs and Burgers (How War, Porn and Fast Food Created Technology As We Know It), Peter Nowak writes how America rose to economic dominance on the back of warfare…

War also drives economic actvity, a truth that governments have always known. The Second World War, for example, ended the Great Depression [in the United States] by stimulating demand for everything from shoes to steel to submarines. In 1933 a quarter of the American workforce was unemployed and the stock market had lost 90 percent of its value since the crash of four years earlier. President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, a package of social reforms, steered the economy in the right direction, but the crisis was still in full flow when the war broke out. The United States saw steady recovery, first as it supplied its allies and then when it formally joined the war in 1941. The entire might of American industry moved to support the war effort and the nation reaped the benefits. In 1944, when defence spending reached an astonishing 86 percent of the federal budget, gross national product climbed a correspondingly huge 28 percent. In dollar terms, GNP went from $88.6 billion in 1939 to $135 billion in 1944. These are growth rates that economists and stock investors see only in their dreams.

The benefits went beyond mere numbers. By 1944 unemployment had dropped to 1.2 percent of the population — it has never again been that low — and even those people who couldn’t normally find jobs, including many women and African-Americans, were gainfully employed. The contributions of those particular demographics during the war also did much to further their respective rights movements in the years that followed.

Military spending as a proportion of GDP in the Philippines in 2005 was a measly 0.90 percent, compared to 4.90 for Singapore, 4.50 for Brunei, 3.00 for Indonesia, 2.03 for Malaysia, and 1.80 for Thailand. For a country that prides itself in having the pound-for-pound greatest boxer in the world as one of its own, it is a pipsqueak where it matters. With millions of able-bodied Filipino men just wiling away their time on street corners drinking beer, the Philippines is a society of people begging for a clear purpose in their lives. Military service and the regimentation of a martial tradition can offer just that.

Even without the direct threat from China Filipinos are feeling at the moment, having a strong military gives substance to national pride — substance that no amount of waxing poetic about dead heroes, flaccid flag waving, or song and dance around street “revolutions” will ever come close to offering the Filipino.

32 Replies to “Should the Philippines increase military spending and prepare for war?”

  1. America produced its own military armaments…this was the reason, its economy was stimulated by wars…Pres. Eisenhower warned about the Military-Industrial complex. Planes were developed by companies like: Boeing, Lookheed, Gruman, etc…Tanks and armored vehicles were developed and manufactured by: General Dynamics, Ford Corp. etc…Submarines and Warships were also developed by American companies. Guns and ammunitions by : Colt, Remington, etc…
    The Philippines has not even has any Defense Industry…It cannot even manufacture a single plane, warship, or tank…
    So, it has to buy these materials from foreign sources. And, they cost a lot of money…This will surely bankrupt the country, if they go on spending on military hardwares..

  2. Interesting article. I don’t think the purpose of building military ought to be economic. It ought to be to realize that there is a model of responsible defense spending that recognizes the risks of today. China is amongst them. A modest ability to fight will give the Philippines better leverage in diplomacy. Today I am sure the Chinese are laughing heartily at the Philippine Navy. They ought not to be able to laugh so easily.

    The Philippines has acted at odds with itself, believing its external defense would be handled by the US, whilst throwing the US out of the country, fleeing the coalition of the willing in Iraq, condemning the VFA, and generally acting enviously. Consistency of strategy is missing.

    It needs to have an external defense plan and budget and an ability to fight, seriously. On its own. It is a matter of integrity more than economics, and even the ability to win is not so important. Just the ability to be taken seriously.

      1. agree. but i hope the people from the military will use the money to buy real objects and not just ghost projects where the money are put to their pockets. if the military only used their budget to true projects then we don’t have to suffer with outmoded military equipment and armaments.

  3. I just imagined sending all the local neighborhood tambays to war.


    No more impromptu karaoke nights, no more fights, no more calling of the cops…

    Probably I’ll see their common law spouses not pregnant again.

  4. Cheap defensive plan? Invest in solid missile and air defense.

    Here’s why:

    If an invading army cannot neutralize our ground defenses with airstrikes, they will be forced to approach us by sea and invade us island-by-island.

    This then turns invasion into a battle of attrition. A 7000+ island battle of attrition.

    As long as air defense is in place, islands will not fall to invasion easily.

  5. I don’t know why many people don’t realize how large the army size of China and other countries are. The Philippines is far behind. If what my link says is correct. China has 7470 Tanks, 5000 Armored Personnel Carriers, 1250 Anti-Tank Guided Weapons, 750 Anti-Aircraft Weapons. China’s Navy has 562 Navy Ships, 26 Destroyers, 55 Submarines… You get the picture?

    1. Singapore has the same situation as us today when they became independent in 1965. Yet they emerged to be a well-respected military today…. We don’t need to be exactly like Singapore, but building a credible force should be enough to show our neighbors that we should never be a subject of bullying….

  6. @Dark Destiny

    Size doesn’t matter and I agree 100% with freon on this “AIR DEFENSE” and add cheap “NAVAL DEFENSE”, all these troops all, all these military equipment and all these tanks need to be transported here if they want to invade us – we can shoot them down or sink them.
    War is not about statistics let me give you an example Korean War – 900 Filipino soldier against 40,000 chinese soldier (battle of Yultong Bridge)google.

  7. Though it sounds bad but the Philippines should have reconsidered modeling its armed forces from Prussian-Germanic on Tanks,Russian for its choppers and US on the logistics-air force supply.Concerning troops,reservists(Try Israel’s) and active duty (Think French/Yankee).In that way,Mainland China would think twice.

  8. Prepare for war??? What a crock!!!!!!

    Philippine officer under Chinese attack: “This is Capt Ramos, we are being shelled by the Chinese!. I need guns, ammo, reinforcements and air support, NOW!!!”

    Answer from Filipino on the other end of the line……………………..

    ……….”Sorry sir, OUT OF STOCK!!!”

  9. We are so F***** when the Chinese invade our country. If only we have experienced fighters we may stand a chance. I wish we have battle hardened soldiers who are really good in guerrilla warfare, China would never stand a chance hence their military is inexperienced and have no history of military victory. Damn that would be awesome seeing a lot of Chinese slaughtered inside our jungles and abu sayaf, NPA rebels show videos cutting the heads of Chinese soldiers every day on youtube. It would be awesome if China suffer another humiliation in the international community, forcing them to finally use all their nukes to the Philippines. The World realizing that China has no more nukes, US and allies would blockade their shores with their carries blocking all imports and exports. Russia would attack from the North, India would attack from the south. China would be taken piece by piece by the international community. War profiteering goes up to the highest and a new age of prosperity will come to the USA.

  10. China is a Land Power it must acquire either the Philippines or Taiwan to increase its Sea Power. Nukes are Tactical Weapons. War happens on the failure of diplomacy; it is also an extension of foreigh policy, the imposition of will.

  11. Nice try Legati. My middle finger got a boner to you.
    Philippines needs TO BE MILITARIZED RIGHT NOW, ASAP. I have to be like Patton here, getting profane. We need to build an MIC like what the Singapore did. WORLD WAR 3 IS IN THE HORIZON, AND IT IS FACING THE PHILIPPINES. WE NEED THOUSANDS OF MISSILES TO FUCK THE CHINESE UP

  12. Our regular army is what? 40,000 strong? Not 100% of them are properly equipped. If we cannot properly equip our regular army, what is the point of having all these reserves?

    Think Red Dawn. You really think something like that won’t work here? We have no air defenses to speak of. The chinese can load 10x our regular army’s numbers on planes and paradrop.

    More to the point: you really think the millions of unarmed unwashed will give a flying f*ck if the chinese invade? Filipinos have lived long enough bending over and taking it up the ass from anyone with half the mind to do so. Feed them for a day and they will blow you for life.

    Let’s just admit it: Filipinos just don’t give a shit about what happens anymore.

  13. The Philippines actually has a credible defense manpower pool, and not from the corner store tambays. What it lacks are the physical means to defend itself. And no, it’s not because the money isn’t there. The Philippines has a lot of money floating around.

    The problem is that national defense is treated as an EXPENSE by short-sighted and dim-witted politicians, not as an INVESTMENT. Even seasoned ex-military types like Rodolfo Biazon think that the Army doesn’t need anything more complicated than a stock-issue M-16 rifle, just because all he had to deal with were scruffy rebels and bandits in the past.

    The problem has now shown itself that the AFP is nothing more than a very heavily militarized police force, seasoned no doubt but very much stuck to chasing guerillas and not capable of securing national territory. And because of the treatment of defense as an expense, the mindset is so very Brown Pride: relying on cast-off equipment and hand-me-downs from Uncle Sugar or other countries.

    If defense was treated as an investment, then there would be a higher allocation for defense and hence more modern equipment. Unfortunately, Brown Pride being what it is, Filipino politicians would rather stick to playing the victim card and call China a bully, instead of doing it the Vietnamese way of actually gunning it out with the Chinese Navy and making a strong point of “Yes, we can kick sand in your eyes.”

    1. This. But then, think about it: why should successive Filipino governments invest in a creditable military that can hoist defenses against outside threats, if throughout the Cold War and beyond we lived under the aegis of the United States as a fellow democratic ally, and in any case weren’t bothered by our neighbors in our corner of Asia (or if we were, then we stocked far more importance to the Communist and Islamist uprisings)?

      1. Investment in defense should have come to mind of those people who led rallies etc, before they kicked the US bases out of the country. Obviously, was not one of the priorities of the first Aquino regime.

  14. Let’s all pray that war will be a thing of the past.

    It is never easy. it takes toll on civilians more than the military, it does more harm than good.

    No one benefits from it except those who sell the supplies for war on either side.

    Our people are plunged into poverty even during peace time, how much more at war.

    I hope our government will concentrate on addressing our problems than adding problems to it.

    Though we need to have enough to defend ourselves and our people, we need not provoke a war we cannot win.

    Let us be sensible enough: what is our economic capacity to handle war compared to the enemy? what is our military population compared to the enemy? How equipped are we in terms of technological quality and quantity logistics. How united are we and how strong is our leadership to gain a solid support from the people compared to the enemy?

    We must bring ourselves to our senses and understand the repercussions of war before even talking about it.

    Let’s not make mistakes that will make our people and our next generation suffer.

    Let’s produce enough food on the table for every Filipino before even attempting to think of spending for war.

    Soldiers whose families have nothing to eat can never win a war.

    Starting a war is easy, sustaining the logistical requirements and finally wining a war is extremely difficult.

    Think well if you are concerned for your children.

    1. I suppose it never occurred to you that this blog and all these comments is about preventing a war by not having one started on weak defenseless crybaby hippie treehugging victim card playing philippines…

  15. I support your view points 1000% Had our military spending been increased immediately after the closing of the American bases, we would have been in a position to defend our territory and not been a pushover by the chinks.

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