The Philippine Navy is crafting a plan to create and deploy maritime Cafgu Active Auxiliaries (CAAs) in its various naval forces who will be tasked to act as “force multipliers” in securing the country’s maritime waters.
Navy Flag Officer in Command Vice Admiral Giovanni Carlo Bacordo said that although they are leaving it up to the decision of area commanders on how they would utilize the militias, they are looking at initially deploying two companies in each of the naval forces.
The Navy has naval forces deployed in Northern Luzon, Southern Luzon, and Central or the Visayas, Eastern Mindanao, Western Mindanao and in Palawan, which are operationally under the area commands of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
“We intend to have two companies per naval forces. So that’s about 120 maritime CAAs per naval force. That is the intent, and later on, from there, we will know if we need to increase, or we need to decrease their forces,” Bacordo said on Monday during a virtual news briefing with military reporters.
“But we will start with the baseline of 120 per naval forces,” Bacordo added.
The idea of forming and mobilizing maritime militias cropped up during last week’s hearing of the budget of the Department of National Defense after Sen. Imee Marcos moved for the formation and training of such sea-based militia force in order to secure the West Philippine Sea (WPS).
China had been using maritime militias in maintaining its presence in the territories that it disputes in the South China Sea, especially against the country, wherein a swarm of steel-hulled boats operated by its militias are used to intimidate or even harass Filipino boats in the WPS.
Bacordo said the use of militias for maritime security is not new for the military, which currently employs, or supervises land-based militiamen such as the CAAs and those from the Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU) as security force multipliers.
“These maritime CAAs has been in existence for long. When I was in Naval Forces Western Mindanao way back in 2014-2016, we already have the maritime CAAs in Western Mindanao, and also in Eastern Mindanao,” the Navy chief said.
“It is like the concept of having the CAAs of the Army, which is operating on land. If you operate on water, then that’s the area of the maritime CAAs. We intend to have maritime CAAs in all of our naval forces which will be an additional contribution to the area commands,” he added.
Meanwhile, Bacordo said that the Navy plans to acquire additional anti-submarine helicopters as it enters the era of anti-submarine warfare under its capability upgrade program by acquiring modern sea-based platforms.
The Navy has already two AgustaWestland 159 anti-submarine choppers, and as it eyeing to acquire additional assets with anti-submarine warfare capability such as the two Corvettes that it was looking to procure from South Korea.
“The plan to acquire additional AW-159 is connected to the plan also to acquire more platforms,” Bacordo said, adding that an anti-submarine helicopter operates in tandem with a ship having the same capability.
The Navy chief also said that they are ready to protect Filipino vessels on exploration and surveys in the country’s oil-rich waters following President Duterte’s decision to lift the moratorium on oil exploration in the West Philippine Sea.
He said they would also sustain maritime and air patrol and improve facilities in the area for better monitoring and response.