Thursday, January 27, 2011

Naval exercise draws thousands in Pantukan

By: Ben O. Tesiorna
CNN iReport, Thursday, 27 January 2011

PANTUKAN, Compostela Valley – A military exercise of the Philippine Navy held in this idyllic coastal barangay of Kingking drew more than a thousand spectators as the military showcased their latest sea vessels as well as the capability of their Marine soldiers and the elite Navy Seals.

Commodore Philip Cacayan of the Naval Forces Eastern Mindanao said the Fleet-Marine exercise dubbed as Exercise Pagsisikap 11 is designed to test, evaluate and enhance the capability of their units in conducting Fleet-Marine operations.

Thursday’s exercise was participated in by a Navy patrol ship, two patrol gunboats, two multi-purpose attack craft (MPAC), Navy Seals with fast patrol boats and company from the 1st Marine Brigade. A Navy Islander aircraft and a Huey helicopter were also utilized during the military exercise.

The MPACs were recently bought by the Philippine Navy at an estimated value of P75 million each. They presently have three MPACs and three more are scheduled to be bought thru the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ modernization program.

MPACs is expected to boost the Navy’s special operations and in other emergency situations. It will also enhance the Navy’s conduct of maritime operations. MPAC can transport limited number of personnel and equipment at a high speed of 40 knots and can be deployed to areas during emergencies to deliver the much-needed services to far-flung areas around the country.

Commodore Cacayan said the coastal town of Pantukan was chosen as the ideal site for their exercise because of its proximity to the NFEM headquarters in Panacan, Davao City.

“Compostela Valley is also one of the provinces which has not been visited by the Navy before so we have chosen that area to let the local residents know that they have a Navy that can help them in their quest for peace and development in their area,” Cacayan said.

An American mining firm is also set to operate in the mountainous area of Pantukan this year fuelling speculations that the military exercise could be a show of force to assure the American company of the security of their operations in the area.

Militant organizations also claimed that American military personnel are involved in the naval exercise. Commodore Cacayan denied this though saying that the exercise was initially scheduled in 2010 but due to their numerous activities they moved it to January 27, 2011.

AFP Eastern Mindanao Command chief Lt. Gen. Arthur Tabaquero meanwhile congratulated the Philippine Navy for their exemplary show of wares and skills.

“It’s the best exercise I have seen for many years. A clear manifestation that the Navy and the Marines can secure use anytime of the day,” Tabaquero said.

Businessman and 705th Squadron Naval Reserve Command Capt. Marfinio Tan also expressed satisfaction on the capability of the Philippine Navy. He said they will also be conducting another exercise in General Santos dubbed as Exercise Sikat.

The local government of Pantukan led by Mayor Tok Sarenas was also present to witness the naval exercise. Compostela Valley Governor Arturo Uy also sent his gratitude to the Philippine Navy for choosing his province as the venue of their military exercise. BOT

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