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Wednesday, August 22nd 2018, 3:15am

The Manila Times, Monday, 25 October 1948

President of the Council of Ministers Cayetano Arellano joined other members of the Council and the Senate at the formal dedication and opening of the new Santo Thomas, Pampagna, factory of Del Monte Motor Works. The Del Monte firm has been established in cooperation with the International Harvester Company of the United States, and will assemble and market the latter’s motor trucks, tractors, and other agricultural machinery in the Philippine market.


Saturday, September 1st 2018, 8:52pm

Frigate Jolo, 1 dg 47 min North, 120 dg 7 min East, Tuesday, 26 October 1948

The Jolo, together with several other units of Patrol Escort Squadron Three, had been loitering off the northern exits to the Makassar Strait, charged with monitoring – or as some might say – spying on – the ongoing Dutch naval exercises further to the south. Only infrequently did they observe any of the Dutch vessels thus engaged but the ship’s dradis had made numerous distant contacts with the aircraft supporting the naval exercise; and they had intercepted many of the Dutch radio transmissions – only a few of which could be deciphered immediately – that would be a task for Station Cast in Cavite.

It was not a question of whether the Dutch were to be trusted or not. For the last several years the Dutch East Indies authorities and those of the Philippines had worked well together to suppress the piracy and smuggling endemic to the region, and the Dutch had given important aid in assuring the pacification of the Abu Sabaya rebellion. To the Southern Patrol Force their role seemed to place them far behind the Northern Fleet – that bulwark against Chinese aggression – or the Western Patrol Force for that matter. No, by showing that they too were competent in matching skills and wits with a formidable naval power, they could remind Manila that the southern seas were not a backwater.


Monday, September 10th 2018, 9:13pm

Philippine News and Events, November 1948

Manila, The Malacañan Palace, Wednesday, 3 November 1948

The regular meeting of the Council of Ministers had touched upon many subjects of domestic interest, yet when matters turned to foreign affairs, Carlos Rómulo broached some rather unexpected news.

“The consul-general in Batavia has cabled that Van Mook, governor-general of the East Indies, has announced his resignation, and The Hague has already announced his replacement.”

There were looks of surprise and, in the case of Minister of Finance Jaime Hernández, an audible gasp. President Arellano however remained focused on the matter.

“And who is to be the new governor-general?”

“Louis Joseph Maria Beel – a man with wide experience in Dutch domestic politics but without significant experience in the Indies. He has held both foreign and internal affairs portfolios in successive Dutch cabinets.”

“Is this development something of which we should be concerned?”

“Senor Presidente, perhaps yes, perhaps no. Van Mook has been more open in dealing with pro-independence factions in the Indies, though of course not advocating it outright. His departure suggests that his successor will perhaps take a firmer line, or, since he is without direct experience, will toe the line on policies as dictated by The Hague.”

De la Vega spoke up. “Do you believe this change will have an impact on our security arrangements in the southern provinces? Any unrest in the Dutch Indies could easily re-ignite our own problems.”

“There is no immediate indication of a major shift in policy; that is not to say that policies might change gradually. Certain elements in the Dutch Indies have always looked to us as an example of an independent nation that they might one day emulate. With Van Mook having encouraged them, they could become impatient with Beel.”

“And we should do nothing that might encourage such impatience.” Don Alfredo Montelibano was adamant on that point. “Sukarno and his ilk would want an independent East Indies so that they could detach our southern provinces and make them part of their Indonesia Raya. We cannot permit this.”

“Gentlemen, at this juncture we can only watch and wait, carefully. Carlos, please cable our ambassador in The Hague inquiring what change in policy, if any, the departure of Van Mook might hold in its wake.”


Monday, September 17th 2018, 6:42pm

The Bohol Chronicle, Wednesday, 10 November 1948

The escort tanker Albay is due to be launched today in the Puerto Princesa naval shipyard, where her construction will continue. The Albay is the last of the four Abra class oilers authorized under the current construction program, and there is presently no indication of future construction in the Palawan yard.


Monday, September 24th 2018, 8:15pm

Butuan Naval Shipyard, Saturday, 13 November 1948

Commander Trevor Stevens, US naval attaché, had been surprised when he received the invitation to visit the island of Mindanao and attend the launch ceremonies for the latest vessels of the Philippine Navy; admittedly, he had called at the Cavite yard several times, but by all reports the yard at Butuan was like a machine churning out vessels as if on an assembly line. And what he saw was not far from that image.

The yard itself was well laid out, with expansive basins flanking two large dry docks and no fewer than six slipways – nearly all of which were busy, either with ships under construction or being prepared for the laying of keels for the next vessel. The primary focus of the day was the launch of two escort destroyers – the Sevilla and Sebaste; he had been informed that their sisters Calatrava and Valladolid were being launched at Cavite, ships he had seen under construction about a month ago. Two other destroyers were nested at the fitting wharf – the Solano and Socorro – which his hosts informed him would be completed in early December.

What attracted his attention though was the less-well attended commissioning ceremonies for two of the Philippine Navy’s latest antisubmarine gunboats – the Centinela and Serviola. He had heard much about them but today would be his first opportunity to see one ‘in the flesh’. They appeared to be handy craft well suited to the waters of the Philippine archipelago – the reports he had read indicated that during the South China Sea conflict Chinese submarines had managed to play hob with Philippine inter-island shipping. The Philippine Navy, it seemed, was intent on rectifying that situation.

He would have much to include in his report to Washington.


Wednesday, October 3rd 2018, 10:01pm

The Philippine Herald, Monday, 15 November 1948

The light cruiser Sorsogon was laid down today at the Cavite naval shipyard, the last of the four Benguet class vessels authorized under the latest fleet law. She is expected to complete early in 1950. While such vessels will definitely strengthen the fighting ability of the fleet, we look forward to the promised new battlecruiser that is contained within the fleet law presently before the Senate.


Wednesday, October 10th 2018, 3:23pm

The Mindanao Post, Wednesday, 24 November 1948

Dateline Zamboanga – the escort tanker Apayao arrived here this morning to take up her assignment with the Southern Patrol Force. The Apayao recently completed her operational training and will commence underway-replenishment training exercises with elements of the Southern Patrol Force. The availability of tanker support is expected to greatly increase the time at sea of the Navy’s thinly-stretched assets in this region.


Tuesday, October 16th 2018, 12:07am

The Freeman (Cebu), Friday, 26 November 1948

The naval shipyard at Puerto Princesa is due to complete the escort tanker Aurora today, after which she will run trials and commence a period of operational training with the Western Patrol Force.


Friday, October 19th 2018, 1:36am

The Manila Times, Sunday, 28 November 1948

The escort destroyers Lamitan and Lucena have completed their post-commissioning operational training and have been assigned to the Northern Fleet. Their arrival is expected to prompt a reshuffle of assets between the Northern Fleet and the Western Patrol Force early next year.


Friday, October 26th 2018, 3:26am

Philippine News and Events, December 1948

Manila, The United States Embassy, Friday, 3 December 1948

Commander Trevor Stevens perused the latest issue of the Philippine Gazette with professional interest. It announced the completion of four new escort destroyers for the Philippine Navy – the Solano and the Socorro at the Butuan yard in Mindanao, as well as the Pola and the Pontevedra at Cavite. What was more, the article informed him that the Butuan yard had also launched a further pair of small antisubmarine gunboats – the Vigía and the Atalaya. He pulled out the notebook in which he kept track of the state of the Philippine naval forces – with the new additions it meant that nearly sixty new destroyers had been added to its strength, together with other new ships in all categories. Compared with the state of the Philippine Navy at the end of the South China Sea conflict, it presented a sea change in composition and capability.


Saturday, October 27th 2018, 9:25pm

Manila, The Senate Chambers, Monday, 6 December 1948

The acrimonious debate had consumed the morning’s session, a Don Andreas Soriano wondered how he might steer the proposed fleet law through the shoals of the several factions to a successful conclusion. The principal question before the house was the inclusion of a battlecruiser in the next year’s estimates; a vocal minority of senators backed the idea, which had been brought forward by the Ministry of Defense, while an equally vocal minority argued that the pace of naval rearmament could not be sustained much longer. They argued that one battlecruiser would do little to add to the Navy’s strength. This position was supported by the Ministries of Commerce and Finance. Soriano had brokered compromises on naval matters many times over the last six years, but it was unclear to him whether he could succeed again.


Wednesday, October 31st 2018, 9:34pm

Manila, The Malacañan Palace, Wednesday, 8 December 1948

Ramon Magsaysay, special assistant to Minister of Defense De La Vega, waited in his office, located in a quiet corner of the palace. He had left instruction that his visitor was to be brought directly there, for officially there was no meeting. Matters in the Senate had reached an impasse, one that Magsaysay hoped could be resolved. A knock on his door announced the arrival of his visitor, and Magsaysay rose.

“Don Andreas, thank you for coming under such unusual circumstances.”

Senator Soriano acknowledged the greeting. “Senor, your message suggested the question of the fleet law could be resolved. I am very interested in hearing how you think this can be accomplished.” Soriano sat, unbidden, but Magsaysay raised no objection.

“Senator, you know that the Naval Staff has convinced some members of the council of the need for a battlecruiser, now. Minister De La Vega has supported their position but has asked me to evaluate the fiscal arguments brought forward by Hernández and Melchor and I have done so. It would seem that the Naval Staff has miscalculated.”

Soriano inclined his head to one side, but let the younger man continue.

“Given the demands for funding of the construction already in hand and the other vessels to be laid down under the proposed law, it would not be possible for us to lay down the battlecruiser before the middle of next year, and the ship would not come off the ways for nearly three years. Who knows what might happen in that time?”

“This is so.” Soriano nodded. At least Magsaysay grasped the essentials.

“Moreover, a single battlecruiser, however impressive, is of doubtful tactical utility. There are a number of younger officers who would see construction of a larger number of smaller cruisers.”

“The Jeune École…” Soriano added. “Their thinking has dominated our decisions for several years now. How many more little light cruisers would they have us build?”

“None. My research has disclosed that several years ago a design study for a heavy cruiser was completed; if brought up to date it would be an option of slightly less cost but one available far more quickly.”

“Yes, Teves argued for one before he took up his diplomatic post in Cleito.”

“Senator, I believe that Minister De La Vega can be convinced to support construction of a pair of such vessels.”

Soriano considered the suggestion. Two heavy cruisers made far more sense than a prestige battlecruiser; and he could use Teves as a lever to win the support of his supporters in the Senate.

“Senor, your arguments have merit. Perhaps we can meet with Minister De La Vega at his convenience…”


Tuesday, November 6th 2018, 3:53pm

Manila, The Malacañan Palace, Friday, 10 December 1948

Soriano, De la Vega, and Magsaysay met to lay their cards on the table. By dint of argument Soriano had marshalled at least a temporary majority of the Senate behind Magsaysay’s idea for a pair of heavy cruisers; the hurdle was winning over De la Vega and through him the Council.

“Don Joaquin, surely you are aware of the strains the economy labors under. A single prestige ship, that will burden us for years, cannot be undertaken at this time.”

De la Vega sighed as he answered. “I understand the burden, but I also understand the arguments of my naval advisors. The continuing growth of the Chinese fleet – albeit composed of the leavings of other nations – cannot be ignored. The nation demands that we do something to keep pace.”

“Senor Presidente, this is why Don Andreas’ suggestion to construct two heavy cruisers is all important. As you own staff has reported it will take twice as long to construct the single battlecruiser proposed as it will the two heavy cruisers. We would be showing the nation that we are responding to the Chinese threat in a timely manner.” Magsaysay had returned to the theme that he had expounded upon at length.

“Several years ago, Don Andreas, you convinced the Senate to favor small cruisers over large ones. Now you do so again.”

“In framing the acts of 1946 and 1948 the most pressing needs of the fleet were addressed, and that was to strengthen our light forces. It is not that I have changed but that the situation between us and China has.”

And so the conference went on. It took time, but with Magsaysay’s support Soriano eventually won De la Vega over to his view. I remained to convince the remainder of the Council and to shepherd the proposals through the Senate. But Soriano left the meeting confident that a solution was within reach.


Saturday, November 10th 2018, 9:56pm

The Philippine Gazette, Wednesday, 15 November 1948

The Senate has given its approval to the latest Naval Armament Replenishment Act, providing continuing funding for the vessels authorized under the Coast Defense Act of 1948 and other previous legislation as well as authorizing the construction of two 13,000 ton heavy cruisers.