Saturday, August 13, 2011

Pama-steering the PH Navy Through Rough Seas

Yahoo, Saturday, August 13, 2011

"A morning Prayer: Open my heart so I can see the truth around me, When I am shown anger, Help me see the hurt that sparked it. When I am shown arrogance, let me see insecurity. When I am shown aggression, Help me recognize the fear beneath it. And when I am confronted with hate, Give me the strength and wisdom to respond with love. Amen."

Chito Bertol, Manila Seedling Bank Foundation

"An officer and a gentleman..."

MANILA, Philippines - That sums up my and the "Bulong Pulungan sa Sofitel" crowd's impression of Vice Admiral Alexander P. Pama, AFP, the Flag Officer-in-Command of the Philippine Navy when he was our guest at our weekly forum.

Looking trim and fit in his light brown daily uniform ("We wear white to gala affairs"), he answered all questions forthrightly and injected his own witty humor which put everyone at ease. There to break bread with us too was his lovely and brainy "commander-in-chief," his banker wife, Carlette, who works at the PNB, just a few minutes away from the PN headquarters on Roxas Boulevard.

From her we learned that they are both from Iloilo and in fact met at the UP campus there in their freshman year. They separated ways when he entered the PMA in Baguio and she continued her studies in UP Diliman. Their paths crossed again and they eventually married. They now have two boys, both students at the De La Salle University.

Alex has an M. A. in Business Administration from Ateneo while Carlette also has her masters from UP. His well-rounded naval career include commanding six navy vessels and other sea commands, holding various shore assignments in the headquarters and is concurrently the Commander of the naval Intelligence Security Force. He was also Superintendent of the Naval School Center, Naval Education and Training Command and in the Naval Operational Command as Commander, Naval Forces Western Mindanao and concurrently Commander, Joint Task Force "Trillium" (Zamboanga -Basilan). His stint at the headquarters of the AFP took him through intelligence and planning and at the DND, he was both the senior military assistant and chief of staff to the secretary.

The reality of the Philippines being a maritime nation is not fully appreciated by our people, Pama noted. Even some of our national leaders tend to overlook the facts-the Philippines is an archipelago made up of some 7,100 islands bounded by the Pacific Ocean, the West Philippine Sea, and the Celebes Sea. We are also in the middle of major international navigation routes with the Coral Triangle within our waters which is why we are blessed by being the "center of the center of marine biodiversity," Pama reminded us. And we thought sailors weren't knowledgeable and dedicated environmentalists!

Being a maritime nation, we have unique challenges-sea piracy, poaching, repatriating stranded OFWs from overseas, kidnapping, trafficking of narcotics, arms, explosives, even people! And now of course, the hunt for oil deposits and China's interest in the disputed Spratlys. The Navy has been tasked to secure offshore oil drilling explorations, and it maintains personnel in the Spratlys. Not to worry, the sighting Marines, who are also all within the PM Command are there also to safeguard this maritime nation, assured Pama.

Developing and implementing a responsive naval system with the limited resources available to the Navy is not lost on Pama. He realizes that equipment vital to securing our patrimony is sorely lacking, but he is certain that with P-Noy's "walangwang- wang" governance, the Navy will be able to reach its goal of being credible and strong.

"Why, this month alone, the navy will be welcoming the newest and biggest PN vessel, a Hamilton-class vessel acquired from the United States.

It has been re-named BRP Gregorio del Pilar, and 90 men trained in a California naval base to man it." Pama sounded euphoric about this newest addition to the navy's tiny fleet of ships and vessels.

He recounted how overwhelmed he was with the enthusiasm of the Fil-Am community in the American naval base from where the Hamilton sailed to the Philippines. That kind of support for the Navy only makes him more resolute in doing his responsibility in steering the "ship" of the PN where it should be going.

It was a very educational and thought-provoking session, thank you, V. Admiral Pama and your officers, Capt. Danilo Rodelas, Capt. Giovanni Carlo Bacordo and Col. Omar Tonsay! And thank you too to Sofitel's Executive Chef, Marko Rankel for that delicious buffet you prepared for our special guest on our Bulong "budget!"

So, "Sail on" Philippine Navy and V.Admiral Pama! We stakeholders wish you success and you have our support!

Meanwhile, if there is any good that has come from the "blasphemous" art work of one Mideo Cruz and exhibited at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (until it was closed down due to P-Noy's urgings and the public indignation) it is the closing of ranks among us Catholics and other denominations as well.

The outrage against the desecration of the symbols of the faith-Jesus Christ, Mary, the Crucifix-augurs well for the Catholic Church in this country. It showed us that we have not been desensitized by some scandals in our Church and that we will defend it when it is attacked.

I talked to Raul Sunico a week after the first storms loomed over the exhibit and he was of the opinion that it was "sanctioned" by UST since Cruz is from that institution. Turns out, UST, in a statement, denied any kind of approval of the exhibit and that Cruz is an undergraduate.

Raul was already bothered about the exhibit but he could not unilaterally decide. There was to be a discussion on it in the coming days and the board appeared to be in favor of allowing the exhibit to continue for the sake of freedom of artistic expression.

Would the President have intervened if the offending art exhibit was held in a private gallery? Would we have reacted with the same passion? I would guess not. The fact that the CCP is funded by our taxes and expected to showcase the best of Philippine art, culture and theatre made all the difference.

Thank you, Mr. President, for reminding the CCP board of their responsibilities.

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