Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Military to send Navy peacekeepers to Haiti

By Alexis Romero
Philippine Star, Tuesday, September 13, 2011

MANILA, Philippines - The military would send for the first time an all-Navy contingent to the United Nations peacekeeping force in Haiti.

Armed Forces public affairs chief Col. Arnulfo Burgos Jr. said the 155-strong contingent would leave on Sept. 20 and stay in Haiti for six months.

A sendoff ceremony was held yesterday at Camp O’Donnell in Tarlac in honor of the team, the country’s 14th contingent to Haiti.

Marine Col. George Fernandez would head the peacekeeping team, which consists of 12 officers and 143 enlisted personnel.

The contingent members came from the different units of the Navy and were the first team to train at Camp O’Donnell.

Burgos said this is the second time that the military is sending a peacekeeping team from only one major service.

The first time was in May when the Armed Forces sent a 327-man all-Army contingent to Liberia. The members were troops of the 76th Infantry Battalion led by Col. Cornelio Valencia.

The peacekeeping unit would conduct humanitarian operations that would benefit those affected by the conflict.

“The deployment of contingents to other countries is our contribution to the United Nations as it continues to perform its role in the advocacy of international peace and solidarity,” Burgos said.

The peacekeepers would also support the Haitian government in promoting the rule of law and human rights and protecting the vulnerable sectors.

“I will successfully accomplish this noble mission by employing our most important assets who are specialized, disciplined, competent and highly trained personnel to perform administrative and logistics services,” Fernandez said in a statement.

Armed Forces chief Gen. Eduardo Oban Jr. said the military would continue to support UN’s peacekeeping efforts even if the Philippines has its own security concerns.

“We have gained a lot on peace keeping which is not apart from the efforts that the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) is doing to uphold peace and security within our country,” Oban said.

“Even though we have our own concerns of internal security, our country remains steadfastly supportive of the commitment for world peace, and continues to join other democratic countries in this venture,” he added.

The Philippines is a signatory of the UN charter and has been sending peacekeeping teams to Haiti since 2004. It is also sending peacekeepers to Liberia and the Golan Heights.


Monday, September 12, 2011

Phl Navy acquires new vessel

By Jaime Laude
Philippine Star, Monday, September 12,2011

Manila Philippines- The Philippine Navy is commisioning the construction of a 579-ton Landing Craft Utility (LCU) that will be launched in the last quarter of the year.

The engine and propulsion system of the ship will be craeted by PROMPMECH whila its hull and fixtures will be made by Philippine Iron Construction and Marine Works (PICMW).

The construction of the ship is funded by the Navy's P176-million LCU acquisition project.

The acquisition of the Philippine-made LCU will provide for a readily available watercraft for combat support missions such as logistic transport and amphibious operations," Navy spokesman Omar Tonsay said.

This month, the Navy has received the weather endurance cutter BRP Gregorio del Pilar acquired from the United States Coast Guard for P450 million.

Local shipbuilders configured the LCU to transport combat personnel,tanks, vehicles, artillery, and cargo.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

19 newly promoted AFP generals take oath

By Alexis Romero
Philippine Star, Tuesday, September 6,2011

MANILA, Philippines - Nineteen military generals formally received their promotions yesterday and vowed to perform their duties faithfully as members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

The generals took their oath in MalacaƱang yesterday morning and were given military honors in a separate ceremony in Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City. The ceremony was followed by a traditional courtesy call on AFP chief Gen. Eduardo Oban Jr.

“I am proud of all the newly promoted officials, for each of them deserves the commendation that they will receive. I just hope that their citation will go hand in hand with the promise to be a better soldier and officer of the AFP,” he said.

Leading the generals who took their oath was AFP deputy chief of staff Lt. Gen. Anthony Alcantara, who received his third star.

Alcantara, a graduate of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Class ‘79, is reportedly one of the strong contenders to be the next AFP chief. He is a classmate of Oban, who is scheduled to retire from the service in December.

Prior to his assumption of the post of deputy chief of staff, Alcantara was the commander of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division based in Maguindanao. As division commander, Alcantara was among those who supervised the implementation of martial law in Maguindanao in the wake of the Nov. 23, 2009 Ampatuan massacre, which left 58 people dead.

Other posts he has held include training and doctrine command chief, AFP Command Center chief, 702nd Infantry Brigade commander, assistant chief of staff for personnel, and assistant chief of staff for civil military operations.

Also among the generals who took their oath is Brig. Gen. Caesar Ronnie Ordoyo, who has been designated as chief of the Intelligence Service. He is a former commander of the Army’s 301st Infantry Brigade and deputy commander of the Armed Forces Western Mindanao Command.

Also promoted was Maj. Gen. Noel Coballes, the commander of the Army’s 1st Infantry Division in Zamboanga del Sur. He oversees the operations against the New People’s Army and the Abu Sayyaf in the Zambonga peninsula region. He is a member of PMA Class 1980.

Other generals who took their oath were Brig. Gen. Reynaldo Torres, chief of the AFP dental service; Rear Adm. Robert Balanon Jr.; Rear Adm. Armando Guzman; Maj. Gen. Joel Marayag; Brig. Gen. Danilo Fabian; Brig. Gen. Teodoro Cirilo Torralba III; Commo. Jose Renan Suarez; Commo. Jesus Millan; Brig. Gen. Edgar Fallorina; Commo. Leopoldo Alano, Brig. Gen. Pedro Biasbas; Commo. Romeo Santiago Nebres; Brig. Gen. Augusto Tolentino; Brig. Gen. Leonido Bongcawil; Brig. Gen. Leo Cresente Ferrer and reservist Brig. Gen. Rufino Tiangco.


Monday, September 5, 2011

More WHEC vessels for military

By Elena Aben
Manila Bulletib, Sunday, September 5, 2011

MANILA, Philippines — Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Eduardo SL Oban Jr. said Saturday that the military expects to acquire another weather high-endurance cutter (WHEC) vessel, like the modern Hamilton-class BRP Gregorio Del Pilar early next year, as he emphasized the military’s capability development is not geared towards any country, but to protect the country’s resources.

In an interview at Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City, following the retirement ceremony for AFP Inspector General Vice Admiral Mario Catacutan, Oban said the AFP is working on the acquisition of two additional Hamilton class ships, adding that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is optimistic it will get the second WHEC vessel for the Navy early next year.

But he admitted a lot of work still needs to be done to ensure that two more Hamilton class vessels of the US Coast Guard (USCG) will go to the AFP.

It will be recalled that the Navy’s first Hamilton ship from the USCG, renamed as BRP Gregorio Del Pilar, and now the largest ship in the Philippine Navy arrived last month with President Aquino leading the welcome ceremony. Also present during the event was US Ambassador Harry K. Thomas Jr.

At hte welcome ceremony for the newest member of the Philippine Fleet, the President bared a kist military equipment to be acquired for the fulfillment of the military capability upgrade and modernization program during his term.

Included in the President’s list of military equipment programmed to be acquired to enhance the capability of the Army, Air Force, and Navy are lead-in jet trainers and “similar weather heavy- endurance cutter.”


Military set to acquire 2 more Hamilton-class cutters

By Jaime Laude,
Pilippine Star, Sunday, September 5, 2011

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippine Navy is set to beef up its fleet with two more Hamilton-class cutters from the United States, one of which may be delivered early next year, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Gen. Eduardo Oban Jr. said Friday.

“We hope that we can get the second one probably early next year,” Oban said.

The Navy recently acquired its first Hamilton-class cutter, rechristened BRP Gregorio del Pilar.

Now the Navy’s flagship, it is undergoing refurbishing and is being equipped with new surveillance and electronic systems at the Sangley Point Naval Base in Cavite.

Oban said high-level talks between the AFP and the US government on boosting the Navy’s capabilities are underway.

Navy chief Vice Admiral Alexander Pama, for his part, said a proposal for the acquisition of two more Hamilton-class vessels has already been submitted to the US government.

We have already forwarded our proposal signifying our intention to acquire two more Hamilton-class cutters," Pama said.


Navy flagship sheds US identity; videoke onboard

By Tarra Quismundo
PDI, Sunday, September 5, 2011

On the two-week voyage across the Pacific, they would ride out the periods of enforced inactivity with videoke showdowns, the song lyrics flashing on a giant flat-screen. On other nights, they would call out numbers at the mess hall in rounds of bingo for token prizes.

But this was no cruise ship carrying Filipinos returning home from a foreign sojourn.

This was the BRP Gregorio del Pilar, the Philippine Navy’s newest and biggest warship, which berthed at its new home port on August 24.

Aboard the former US Coast Guard vessel that used to patrol the freezing Bering Sea off Alaska, the voltage is still 110 but the heater is never turned on.

“This is like our mother ship. It’s the biggest ship that can be used for any role, any mission. As a flagship, this is the Navy’s pride, our [first] modern ship,” said the Del Pilar’s Captain Alberto Cruz.

The 378-foot Hamilton-class cutter, a 46-year-old hand-me-down from the US Coast Guard, is fast shedding its American identity and taking on a distinctly Filipino mien.

There is a crucifix on most every deck, which comes in the form of a nightlight in the captain’s cabin. The clinic—which would be considered state-of-the-art in terms of Philippine naval standards—has an altar on one corner and a small Philippine flag near the door.

The heavy-duty mess hall is still packed with American-made goods, from French Vanilla or Irish Cream coffee creamer to supersized canned foods. But the kitchen churns out typical Filipino dishes like menudo and chop suey. And of course, creamy fruit salad for dessert.

In the hallways and bulletin boards, US Coast Guard posters are still a ubiquitous presence, but beside them are Philippine Navy memos and duty sheets.

Near the mailbox still marked “US Mail,” there’s a flat screen, a microphone and a thick songbook, so singing sailors are sure to never run out of choices while on long missions at sea.

Attesting to how much the ship has been Filipinized, Cruz said the crew that trained in the US to operate the ship before sailing it home had asked that they be sent a videoke machine.

“When we were sailing in the Pacific, we did the videoke and had a singing contest like “American Idol.” We called it “Goryong Idol,” said Cruz.

Named after ‘boy general’

The Del Pilar was named after Gregorio del Pilar—nicknamed “Goryo”—the flamboyant 22-year-old “boy general” of the Philippine Revolution. Del Pilar was treacherously killed while holding off an entire US battalion with just 60 men at the historic Tirad Pass to facilitate the escape of President Emilio Aguinaldo during the Philippine-American War in 1899.

At 47, Cruz is just a year older than the Del Pilar. But the new Navy warship is already the sixth to be commanded by the captain who completed two prior tours patrolling the waters off Palawan.

The vessel was acquired under the auspices of the country’s Mutual Defense Treaty with the US, which allows the Philippines to acquire decommissioned US defense equipment.

It was transferred to the Philippine Navy through the US Excess Defense Article program, at a transfer cost of P450 million, which was paid out of the Department of Energy’s Malampaya project funds.

Some 95 Navy men underwent intensive training in the US Coast Guard sister ships before starting the 33-day journey to bring the Del Pilar home on July 18 from the US Coast Guard port in Alameda, California.

Cruz said the ship will soon go into dry dock at a shipyard in Batangas for refurbishing, regular maintenance and minor repairs. It will also be repainted in the Navy’s regulation gray.

Weapons system

In welcoming the new star of the Philippine Navy fleet, President Aquino said the vessel would boost the Philippines’ defense capabilities in the country’s exclusive economic zones, including the disputed waters of the West Philippine Sea.

“When he visited, he was just happy that the ship was here, the latest in the inventory of the Navy,” said Cruz.

“We really need more assets in Palawan, considering there’s a big area to be patrolled. That’s why this is a big help,” he added.

Before it was turned over to the Navy, the Del Pilar’s modern weapons systems were removed and only basic armaments were left on board, according to weapons officer Lieutenant Ronald Paras.

What remains of the ship’s defense system is a deck-mounted 76mm/62-caliber main canon at its fore, flanked on either side by an antimissile system called the MK 36 Super Rapid Bloom Offboard Countermeasures Chaff and Decoy Launching System.

The Navy plans to install 25mm chain guns in the ship’s rear, six mounted 50-caliber guns and two 20mm canons, Paras said.

Bigger responsibility

The Del Pilar, until recently the largest class of vessel in the US Coast Guard, is definitely a major boost to the country’s Navy fleet, often derided as a collection of aging World War II-era warships, according to Cruz.

“In terms of equipment, everything you need is here: firefighting, navigation and other tools and, of course, accommodations,” he said. The vessel can accommodate up to 180 crew members.

Powered by gas turbines, a first in the Navy’s diesel-fed fleet, the vessel can reach speeds of 28 knots and stay at sea without refueling for up to a month. It is equipped to quickly deploy troops to pursue enemy vessels through onboard rubber boats.

“Now that we have a bigger ship, we have a bigger responsibility,” said Cruz.


Saturday, September 3, 2011

Navy, PAF in crucial tiff

By Kristel Satumbaga
Manila Bulletin, Saturday, September 3, 2011

MANILA, Philippines — Philippine Navy and Philippine Air Force collide in a crucial match Sunday as they press their semis bids in the Shakey’s V-League Season 8 Open Conference quarters at The Arena in San Juan.

The Lady Sailors (1-3) and the Airwomen (1-2) tangle at 4 p.m. before the Maynilad Water Dragons (0-3) fight for dear lives against early semifinalists Philippine Army Lady Troopers (4-0) at 2 p.m.

Navy faces a must-win situation against Air Force to stay in the semis hunt after dropping its last two games – the last against Ateneo, 13-25, 25-20, 25-23, 25-19, last Thursday.

Air Force, on the other hand, is determined to avenge its 25-18, 25-23, 25-21 prelims loss last Aug. 11 against the same squad while also seeking for its second straight win.

Playing coach Nene Ybanez leads the Lady Sailors and will be backstopped by power-hitting Nene Bautista and Suzanne Roces, who combined for 42 points in their last match.

Air Force will be bannered by Aiza Maizo and Jennifer Manzano with Iris Patrona and Amy Guanco expected to provide additional firepower.

With a 0-3 record, Maynilad needs to sweep its last two assignments and hope that Ateneo (2-2), Air Force and Navy won’t go over two wins to force a playoff for the last semis seat.

But the Water Dragons will have to thread through the eye of the needle against the Lady Troopers, who are looking for a sweep of the single-round robin phase after winning their first four matches.


Thursday, September 1, 2011

Marine battalion team members honored

By Bong Garcia
Sun Star, Thursday, September 1, 2011

THE Philippine Navy has accorded honors to officers and men of the Marine Battalion Landing Team-4 (MBLT-4) for their accomplishments in combat operations that led to the neutralization of some noted terrorists in Mindanao.

Lieutenant Colonel Omar Tonsay said the honors were accorded to the MBLT-4 by Navy chief Vice Admiral Alexander Pama upon the troops' arrival Thursday at the Navy headquarters in Roxas Boulevard, Manila.

The MBLT-4, composed of 19 officers and 424 enlisted personnel, arrived Thursday in Manila for retraining after 10 years of being assigned in Mindanao, Tonsay said.

He said the most noteworthy among the MBLT-4's achievements is the neutralization of Abu Sayyaf bandit leader Albader Parad on February 21, 2010 and five of his comrades, as well as the recovery of five high-powered firearms and ammunition.

Tonsay said the MBLT-4 also successfully raided a two-hectare marijuana plantation in Barangay Patao, Maimbung, Sulu and another 1.5 hectare in nearby Barangay Binuang, Talipao in the same province, with an estimated total market value of P32 million on May 22 and June 26, 2008, respectively.

He said Pama also lauded the MBLT-4 troops for their major operations against secessionist groups in different parts of Mindanao and the team's success in winning the trust and confidence of the populace in the various areas they were deployed.

Pama likewise acknowledged the members of the MBLT-4 who have fallen in the line of duty and who have lived up to the standard of a true Marine, "ever committed to the ideals of the Philippine Marine Corps and the Navy."

Tonsay said the MBLT-4's activities in its area of responsibility were not confined to combat operations alone, but were extended to various humanitarian projects that benefited local residents such as construction of road networks, water systems and school buildings.

He said the MBLT-4 also taught local residents to engage in seaweeds farming, thus helping alleviate the flight of living of people they meet in their areas of operation.

"These missions highlight the Navy's Fleet-Marine operations where Sailors and Marines work in tandem in support of the government's peace and development efforts," Tonsay added.


Think-tank cites PH commitment to upgrade its territorial defense

By Roy Mabasa
Manila Bulletin, Wednesday, August 31, 2011

MANILA, Philippines — A United States (US)-based think-tank Wednesday said that US officials can learn two important lessons from the enthusiasm generated by the recent introduction of the Philippine Navy’s newest flagship, the BRP Gregorio del Pilar, which was acquired through the US Foreign Military Sales program.

Robert Warshaw, Research Assistant in the Asian Studies Center at The Heritage Foundation, said that firstly, the Philippines is fully committed to improving its territorial defense.

Secondly, he said, the US–Philippines alliance remains extremely relevant in preserving stability across the Asia-Pacific.

Warshaw stressed that US policymakers would do well to heed the recommendations raised by The Heritage Foundation, as contained in its report, “US–Philippines Partnership in the Cause of Maritime Defense,” released early August.

He said that beyond the pressing need to fully fund its own Navy, the US should prioritize the Philippines to receive excess defense articles.

“The fanfare that greeted a Vietnam War–era Coast Guard vessel should remind the Pentagon that the Philippines operates an aging fleet of less than 80 ships; therefore, any excess ships would have a tremendous effect on ensuring regional stability,” Warshaw stated in his paper, “US Ship for Philippines a Good Start, But Much More to Be Done.”

He said the US should also explore various lend-lease programs to provide the Philippines’ armed forces with the hardware it needs to maintain a sufficient defense capability.

In continuing to provide the Philippines with the means to protect its territorial integrity, the US should ensure that the alliance can continue to flourish for the next 60 years, Warshaw said.

“The US should continue to offer support to the Philippines by reaffirming our mutual defense obligations and ensuring freedom of navigation across the region,” he said.

Last week, President Benigno Aquino III personally welcomed the arrival of BRP Gregorio del Pilar at Pier 13 of the South Harbor in Manila.

President Aquino said the docking of the 378-foot Hamilton class cutter represents the renewed strength of the country’s Armed Forces towards protecting its coastlines and assets.

In his speech during the welcoming ceremony, the President also assured the Armed Forces of the Philippines that the government will not stop in the acquisition of ships, helicopters and patrol crafts.

The BRP Gregorio del Pilar replaced the Raja Humabon, a Cannon-class destroyer escort, which is probably one of the world’s oldest warships.

Warshaw said the changeover in flagships points to the Philippines’ urgent need for maritime defense capability. “It has to start its modernization somewhere, and developing an ability to regularly patrol Philippine-claimed waters in the South China Sea is the best place to start,” he said.

Warshaw pointed out that “despite historically dedicating its security policies toward countering domestic separatism, President Aquino’s government now realizes the danger posed by continued Chinese adventurism in the South China Sea.”

He claimed that since February, Chinese military vessels on several occasions have allegedly harassed Philippine fishing boats and energy survey ships in waters “mere miles from Philippine territory.”

“President Aquino, in unveiling his new flagship before his state visit to Beijing is sending a message to Beijing that the Philippines is ready to protect its own shores,” he added.


Submarine for Navy? Noy bares AFP shop list

By Alexis Romero
Philippine Star, Saturday, August 24, 2011

The Manila Philippines- President Aquino yesteday enumerated a list of military equipment to be acquired in fulfillment of his promise of modernizing the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) during his term.

Aquino said among the equipment to be purchased are jet trainers that would enhance the skills of pilots and radars to monitor the country's territorial waters.

"With regard to the equipment I want...I want everything. But what we will acquire, we have lead-in jet trainer...to keep the skills of the jet pilots, especially the fighter pilots still active. we won't have the fighter jet but we will have these lead-in jet trainers to keep their skill levels," Aquino told reporters at arrival ceremonies for the BRP Gregorio del Pilar at Pier 13 in Manila.

Aquino said the government pans to acquire surface attack aircraft, air defense radars, long-range patrol aircraft and closed air air support aircraft for the Air Force.

'For the Navy, strategic sea lift vessels, off-shore patrol vessels, naval helicopters-there are at least three of them, coast watch stations, similar weather-heavy endurance cutters,"he said.

Aquino said the Army would be provided with new assault rifles, armor assets, tanks, armored personnel carriers, force protection equipment like helmets and bulletproof vests, night-fighting equipment and radios.

Aquino said the Navy is still studying whether it needs to purchase a submarine to secure the country's territory.

"The (acquisition of a) submarine is being studied by our Navy, whether or not practical, whether or not it meets our needs," he said.

Aquino said a country in Southeast Asia bought a refurbished submarine for a bargain price of $12 million but ended up spending more to refit the vessel for tropical conditions.

They ended up spending the same as if they bought it brand-new," Aquino said.

Navy chief Vice Admiral Alexander Pama said they are cautious on the plans to purchase submarines to beef up their capabilities.

"This is a complicated matter," Pama said. "We don't want to commit a mistake by jumping into something. As i said, we don't want to buy something which eventually we cannot chew and swallow," he said.

When asked if the purchase of submarines is possible under Aquino's term, Pama said: " I cannot second guess the president.. there are several factors (to be considered)...it starts from our capacity, in terms of resources and second, our readiness.

Pama said they are also eyeing to acquire two Hamilton-class ships from the US.

The government has allotted P11 billion this year to bankroll the military's capability upgrade program.

Of this, P8 billion will come from proceeds from the Malampaya natural gas project in Palawan while P3 billion will be sourced from the military's modernization funds.

Budget secretary Florencio Abad earlier said the government would implement a P40-billion military modernization project over the next five years, starting in 2012.

Abad said the government would allot P8 billion annualy over the next five years for the Armed Forces' modernization program.

Aquino vowed to exercise good governance to enable the government to upgrade the military's capabilities.

"Through our responsible governance, through the straight path, we can do more...we won't stop with ships. We won't be contented with helicopters," he said.

"We can offer modern weapons, faster patrol craft and more effective equpment to our soldiers and police without wasting money from our state coffers...We will buy these new equipment at the right price."