On the Saturday nearest May 30, Spain celebrates its Armed Forces Day with much pageantry. This year, it was celebrated in the southern city of Seville with no less than King Philip IV and Queen Letizia headlining the ceremonials.
Last week, my wife and I were among those invited to celebrate the Spanish Armed Forces day in Manila. It was held belatedly to take advantage of the cool November weather.
The ceremony started with a holy mass, followed by the laying of floral wreaths at the tomb of Miguel López de Legazpi by Ambassador Jorge Moragas and Colonel Ricardo Pardo. It will be recalled that the Spanish navigator arrived in our shores in 1565 to lead the Spanish settlement in a cluster of islands, later to become the Philippines. The act was meant to pay tribute to both Spanish and Filipino soldiers whose blood were shed in the creation of this country.
We moved to Father Blanco’s gardens behind the San Agustin church for the formal reception. The gardens were magnificent that evening. There, Ambassador Moragas and Colonel Pardo welcomed guests from the Philippine armed forces including Lt. Gen. Erickson Gloria, Deputy Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Also present were my fellow members from the Spanish Chamber of Commerce, prominent figures of the Spanish community and the Philippine military.
With rising tension in the West Philippine Sea, it is comforting to know that there are friendly governments in whom we can count on for support. Even without a mutual defence treaty between our countries, Spain has been consistent in helping the Philippine armed forces in its many initiatives.
Ambassador Moragas disclosed that the Philippines is a top priority for Spain’s Defence Diplomacy in the Asia-Pacific region. The Spanish government has been working with the Philippine Armed Forces not only for military education but also in joint initiatives against terrorism and global security.
This year, Spain has hosted visits by the Commanding Generals of the Philippine Army in May, the Navy in October and Air Force in November. These visits served as platforms for talks on cooperation, collaboration and mutual learnings.
As I write this, an important delegation from the Department of National Defence is in Spain to arrange the Joint Defence Activities for the future and to sign a new Memorandum of Understanding on logistics, defense and armaments cooperation. Spain’s commitment to the Philippines has been unwavering.
On the side lines, I spoke with Capt. Constancio Reyes of the Philippine Navy and Major General Antonio Parladé of the Civil Military Operations, both of whom appraised me on the modernization program of the Philippine armed forces. I was happy to hear that on the Navals side, the Philippines is soon taking delivery of two missile capable frigates from South Korea; A Spike-ER (extended range) surface-to-surface missile system (which is now installed on three of the newly-acquired multi-purpose attack crafts); Two Agusta Westland AW-159 Wildcat anti-submarine helicopters; Eight Hanwha Techwin amphibious assault vehicles; two corvette warships; 16 Mi-17 medium-lift helicopters; and two French-made diesel-electric Scorpéne submarines, among others.
On the air force side, apart from the two Gulfstream G280 jets which will serve as the airborne command post for the President, the air force is expecting delivery of sixteen Black Hawk Helicopters; a Lockheed C-130 Hercules transport aircraft; Two Bell AF-1 Cobra Attack Helicopters; six additional NC212i aircrafts; six brand-new Embraer A-29 Super Tucanos; and four new aerial systems to support intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance, among others.
On the Army side, delivery is expected for more ground delivery equipment; 155mm Howitzers; Short and Medium range missiles; Multiple launch rocket systems; and armored recovery systems.
All these, along with 125,000 men and women in active service, will enable the Philippines to put up a credible defense (and offense) if and when armed conflict arises.
As an industrial nation, Spain’s military capabilities are formidable. It has its own defense manufacturing industry whose output stood at US$10.2 billion in 2018. Spanish companies like Aernnova Aerospace, Navantia, Tecnobit and Sociadad Anonima de Electrica Submarina have been producing naval and aircraft hardware for the Spanish armed forces and those of its allies. Spain is ranked seventh in the world in defense exports.
The Spanish army consists of 15 active brigades and 6 military regions, all of whom are armed with the latest weapons made in Spain and outside. Its Navy has four areas of commands that cover the Cantabrian zone, the Mediterranean zone, the Canary Islands zone and the Straits (southern) maritime zone. Basically, the four sides of the Spanish peninsula. Its ever increasing fleet consist of three amphibious assault ships which is also used as aircraft carriers, two amphibious transport docks, 12 frigates, 3 submarines, 6 mine countermeasure vessels, 23 patrol vessels and a number of auxiliary ships.
As for its air force, Spain currently has 10 fighter squadrons, each with 18-24 airplanes. Its also has 15 operational air bases around the country. It operates a wide-ranging fleet of aircraft, from fighters jets to transport aircraft and passenger planes to helicopters. It maintains some 522 aircraft in total, of which around 130 are fighter aircraft including the Eurofighter Typhoon and the Airbus A400M Atlas airlifter.
Spain is ranked the 20th most powerful military in the world according to globalfirepower.com with its fleet of fighter aircrafts, naval assets, combat tanks and 121,000 of the best trained military personnel in service.
Apart from protecting the people of Spain and the interest of the Spanish kingdom, its armed forces is committed to maintaining peace in global hotspots, empowering weaker militaries, fighting terrorism and preventing human trafficking.
While it assists the Philippines in many ways as a strong ally, its presence can also be felt in the Baltic region as it helps protect the airspace of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. It has come to the aid of Turkey as it defended its borders against ballistic missiles from Syria. It continues to assist the Somali government by way of training its military personal. This among many other peacekeeping initiatives.
We salute the Spanish armed forces on its day of commemoration and look forward to more areas of cooperation between the Spanish and Philippine militaries.
Andrew J. Masigan is an economist.