(Editor's note: Our Air Force is now gaining more force in lieu of air. The Jordanian journalist can mislead the whole world why banditry prevails in Mindanao, as noted by the author.)
MANILA, Philippines --- In the late 1950s up to about the mid-1960s, jet planes of PAF took to the skies in yearly air shows in summer. The "Blue Diamonds" squadron thrilled thousands at Villamor Air Base, who marveled at the skill of Filipino jet pilots. The base itself is named after Captain Jesus Villamor, the first Filipino air hero who fought Japan's air might in December, 1941. General Douglas MacArthur conferred on Villamor the Distinguished Service Cross, America's second highest medal.
PAF started to deteriorate in the 1970s during the insurgency in Mindanao. In the last coup against the Cory government in 1989, it took a US Phantom jet from Clark to let the coup plotters and fighters know whose side the US was carefully protecting. The coup melted and was quietly defeated by the AFP.
Fit for disposal
This week, COA said in its 2010 report about PAF: "The Air Force virtually has a non-existent air deterrent capability due to its aging air assets." As of 2010, most aircraft/planes were either inactive or fit for disposal.
Protecting our claim
We badly need jet fighters to patrol our long coastline. Jet fighters may visit the disputed shoal where China's fighter plane was reportedly seen over the area this month. This is no threat to start a dog fight, but would show our active interest to protect what is concededly ours for a long period before 2012.
If we don't persist in protecting our claim, the other party may assume that the shoal is getting less attention for ownership to prescribe.
More jet fighters/helicopters
Next year, PAF will buy 12 fighter jets costing R1.2 B each and six fixed-wing aircraft from suppliers in South Korea, Italy, UK, and Russia. The six aircraft will boost the government's counter-insurgency campaign in Mindanao. All told, before 2016, PAF expects to add: Six surface attack aircraft and fighter trainers, long-range patrol plane, a special mission aircraft, and one air-defense radar.
Four brand-new combat utility helicopters are expected to arrive in November. The first four Sokol helicopters were delivered last February. The eight helicopters cost R2.8 B, including support equipment, spare parts, and training.
War-front correspondents are not a rare breed. Some of them join troops moving in all directions. But the Jordanian journalist and two Filipino cameramen are not observers in a raging war, but journeyed to Sulu in search of adventure. The cameramen's disappearance brought extreme anxiety to their families when told they disappeared in the mountains of Sulu.
Chilling effect on tourism
If they can shoot pictures of bearded Abu Sayaff guerrillas in uniform and carrying modern automatic weapons, they can easily sell the photos to foreign TV and newspapers. The chilling effect on our tourism trade is definitely negative, when Muslim guerrillas freely move around. Foreigners, like Australians, Europeans, etc., don't distinguish the difference between Sulu and Palawan's northern islands as favorites of tourists.
Another test is this: The Jordanian, to sell his report with pictures, will tell the whole world that the Abus are not bandits nor are they engaged in kidnapping with ransom. He will tell his readers that the Abus are freedom fighers but were ignored in their struggle for recognition.
Worse, the Jordanian is free to tell the whole world that the Manila government is driving the Abus crazy to the rain forest as innocent militants asking for land reform. But the government recognized their fellow Muslims in the MILF as peaceful negotiators seeking power-sharing and a partition of the national territory.
Distortions of facts and aspirations will prove more attractive than the whole truth, like the country is not a good state for not helping the poor more than it helped the rich. This can mislead Muslim states in the Middle East where Filipino OFWs, by the thousands, still defy the government's travel ban for employment.
If the Jordanian journalist is a subject of deportation, our country will suffer more from the backlash of sensationalism that freedom of expression has been suppressed by the Manila government. (Comments are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org).