What’s in the first Spanish warship in the Philippines? – The diplomat

Asia Defense | Diplomacy | Security | South East Asia

A closer look at the significance of the first such goodwill visit since the colonial-era relationship between the two sides.

Last week, a Spanish ship made the first such trip to the Philippines since the independence of the Southeast Asian state. While this was just one of many interactions between the two countries stretching back centuries, it nonetheless underscored the efforts of both sides to advance the defense aspect of their relationship within the contemporary bilateral relationship.

The Philippines and Spain have a longstanding relationship, with Spain colonizing the Philippines for centuries and contemporary diplomatic ties established in 1947. But the two sides have also attempted to strengthen their defense ties in recent years. , relying on aspects such as defense logistics cooperation, training and provision of capabilities for the development of the Philippine Army as part of its continuous modernization.

This also continued in 2019. In June, as the two countries commemorated the 17th annual Philippine-Spanish Friendship Day, indications were that the two sides planned to finalize a new memorandum of understanding on the defense covering various fields including logistics, defense materiel, armaments and defense industry cooperation. There are also a number of upcoming engagements, including a planned trip for Philippine Naval Chief Robert Empedrad to Spain next month, following the Philippine Army Chief’s visit to Spain in June. .

Last week, the defense aspect of the relationship made headlines with a visit by a Spanish ship to the Philippines. The air defense frigate Méndez Nuñez (F-104) of the Armada Española (Spanish Navy) was on a goodwill visit to the Philippines in what has been such an interaction of its kind since the end of Spanish rule in the Philippines in the Battle of Manila Bay in during the Hispanic American War in 1898. It was part of a larger eight-month journey to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the circumnavigation of the world by Ferdinand Magellan and Juan Sebastian Elcano, which began in August 1519, and the later arrival from Spain to the Philippines where he ruled for over three centuries.

The goodwill visit involved a series of interactions. By Maria Christina Roxas, Acting Director of the Philippine Navy Public Affairs Office, the Méndez Nuñez, an Alvaro de Bazan-class frigate, piloted by more than 200 sailors and led by Commander Antonio Gonzalez del Tanago de la Lastra, entered the Philippines through a regular meeting point procedure and then escorted to the area of ‘mooring. The visit also saw several engagements, including a welcoming ceremony and a port briefing; engagements of trust between the PN and Spanish Navy personnel, including a visit to the ship, reciprocal receptions and friendly games; and a passing exercise between the two parties.

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Besides those activities that are customary for such goodwill visits, there were also a series of interactions meant to commemorate the significance of the historic interaction within the Philippines-Spain relationship – which the Philippine Navy says , was an “unprecedented goodwill visit” and marked the first time that a Spanish navy vessel “crossed the waters off Cavite and Manila after the post-independence period”.

For example, the Spanish ship sailed to Baler Bay in Aurora Province to honor the Spanish and Filipino soldiers who died in the Battle of Baler – the last fight of Spanish forces in the Philippines. As the Méndez Nuñez ‘The commander told reporters it was a “one-time deployment” designed to commemorate a historic event.

Granted, this is just one of a series of interactions between the two countries with a long history of bonding. And while there has been a great deal of attention paid to the symbolism of the event, it remains to be seen how such developments will actually translate into the substantial gains for the relationship that both sides have indicated, whether it is whether it be individual agreements or a growing role of Spain among other actors in the military modernization of the Philippines. Nonetheless, the first notable highlighted the two countries’ continued efforts to make inroads where they can on the defense side as part of their larger contemporary relationship.

Edward K. Thompson