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Philippine navy boosts reservists as China tensions, mandatory military training calls grow

The latest batch of 48 civilian workers enlisted under the Philippines’ reserve force for its navy marks a coup of sorts, comprising Senate staff who could potentially aid in nudging through military bills.

The special Basic Citizen Military Training course, arranged by actor-senator Robinhood Padilla, also reignited debate on whether mandatory or voluntary training served to better assist the country’s armed forces to deal with the mounting geopolitical tensions in the region.

Padilla is among senators vigorously pushing to turn the current voluntary Reserved Officers’ Training Course (ROTC) programme for university students into a compulsory one.

The obligatory rule, implemented by the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos Snr in 1967, was made optional by a 2001 law following public outcry over the death of student Mark Welson Chua who exposed corruption in ROTC training.

Invoking “patriotism” and a “common cause”, Navy Flag Officer-in-Command Vice-Admiral Toribio Adaci Jnr on Tuesday told the new reservists: “We really appreciate you joining the Philippine navy at this time when our country is facing formidable challenges in our maritime environment.”

The navy now has 215,000 men and women in its reserve force, according to Major General Joseph Ferrous Cuison, chief of the Naval Reserve Command.

The Philippine Senate, with only 24 lawmakers, performs a special role in crafting legislation, while 13 of its members also have a hand in approving the promotion of all senior military officers through the powerful Commission on Appointments.

The latest recruits, who attended the passing out ceremony at the navy headquarters, comprised mostly Senate employees across a range of positions, aged 27 to 63.

They also underwent an arduous