Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Navy arrests 122 Vietnamese poachers

By Mario J. Mallari
The Daily Tribune, Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Arrested Vietnamese poachers, aboard seven fishing vessels, off the waters of Palawan province last Monday reportedly hoisted Philippine Flags to their boats, apparently to avoid being monitored as intruders by government security forces patrolling the area.

A total of 122 Vietnamese fishermen are now under custody of the Balabac Municipal Police Station (MPS) in Palawan after Navy sea borne patrol, led by Maj. Ferdinand Atos of the Naval Station Balabac, caught them within the country’s territorial waters off Balabac.

Aboard F/V Z-M 001, 0002, 003, 004, 005, 006 and 007, the Vietnamese were reportedly caught hoisting Philippine Flags while fishing.

Western Command (Wescom) spokesman Maj. Niel Estrella said that the Navy troops initially inquired for identification from the Vietnamese but could not answer back.

“The encroaching Vietnamese vessels were found to be flying Philippine flags but when our sea borne patrol approached for verification and identification purposes, the crew members could not speak Tagalog,” Estrella said.

The Navy operatives, along with members of the Balabac MPS, subsequently apprehended the Vietnamese and brought them to the local police headquarters.

The latest intrusion in the country’s territorial waters off Palawan province happened while Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Gen. Eduardo Oban Jr. were visiting Wescom.

Gazmin’s short visit to Wescom was prompted by recent reports of intrusion by unidentified jet fighters within Philippine-occupied territories at the disputed Spratly group of islands on South China Sea.

The Defense chief instructed AFP troops to remain vigilant in conducting air and sea patrol along the country’s territorial waters.

Gazmin’s visit also came after the visit of Chinese Defense Minister Liang Guanglie amid tension brought about by the reported buzzing of alleged Chinese MIG-29 jetfighters against Philippine Air Force OV-10 Broncos. The Chinese official denied having MIG29s in their inventory.

Only last March, two Chinese patrol boats harassed a Department of Energy exploration vessel at the Philippine-occupied Reed Bank on the disputed Spratlys on South China Sea, which are being claimed in whole or in part by the Philippines, China, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan.


Monday, May 30, 2011

Navymen overall champ

Philstar, Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Dahil sa kanilang taglay na agresibong lakas, muling ipinamalas ng Philippine Navy ang kanilang supremidad nang kanilang ibulsa ang 8 mula sa 9 na gintong medalyang pinaglabanan sa senior category at mapasakamay ang division title sa pagtatapos ng 2004 National Juniors, Seniors and Women’s Amateur Boxing Championships sa Panabo Multi-Purpose gym.

Ang kampanya ng Navy team ay binanderahan nina SEA Games veteran Junie Tizon at Ferdie Gamo ng kanilang walisin ang open category kung saan tanging ang paboritong si Larry Semillano lamang ang nabigong manalo makaraang lumasap ng 15-14 pagkatalo sa mga kamay ni Francis Joven ng Philippine Army sa welterweight class.

Umagaw naman ng atensiyon ang RP team sophomore na si Albert Pabila na umukit ng gold sa pinweight class makaraang igupo si Marvin Somodio 34-13, nang kanyang mapagwagian ang ‘Best Boxer’ sa seniors category ng taunang tournament na ito.

Tanging ang 24-anyos na si Joeven ang nakaligtas sa pananalasa ng Navy team matapos na mapuwersa ni Franklin Albia ang Armyman na si Ernanie Desabille na magretiro may 1:16 sa fourth round ng kanilang lightflyweight fight, habang umiskor naman si Tizon ng RSC-O na panalo sa 29 segundo ng third round kontra sa Airman na si Mary Joy Tagbe sa lightheavyweight finals.

Ang iba pang nagsubi ng ginto ay sina Joan Tipon sa bantamweight class, Joegin Ladon sa lightweight fight, War-lito Parinas sa flyweight category, featherweight Ferdie Gamo at lightwelterweight Mark Jason Millegen.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Coral reefs destruction in the PHL alarming

by Minerva BC Newman, Sunday, May 29, 2011

CEBU, May 29 (PIA) - Environmentalist in Central Visayas are alarmed over the continuous destruction of the country’s coral reefs.

According to reports marine life area damages measured about twice the size of Manila and poachers harvested more than 21,000 pieces of black coral, killed hundreds of marine species including 161 endangered turtles with market value of about P35M.

Just last week, the Bureau of Customs in Cebu seized about P15M worth of black corals that prompted Malacanang to call on the public to boycott jewelries that are made from black, blue or red corals.

Based on media reports, poaching ravaged approximately 7,000 hectares of sea bed within the Moro Gulf and the Sulu Sea.

Senator Loren Legarda, chair of the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources and Committee on Climate Change filed a resolution to look into the said incident and called the attention of government agencies mandated to enforce Republic Act 8550 or the Fisheries Code of the Philippines.

According to the DENR there are estimates that one square kilometer of healthy coral reef can support as much as 35 metric tons of live fish.

Legarda lamented that of the 27,000 square kilometers of the country's existing corals only five percent (5%) are in excellent condition.

This situation is indeed very alarming considering that this kind of environmental exploitation has been banned for thirteen years.

A damage of this magnitude could have been prevented with the strict implementation of the Fisheries Code of the Philippines that Congress passed in 1998, environmentalists commented.

Under the Fisheries Code of 1998, a ban is imposed on the exploitation and exportation of corals as well as the fishing and taking of any rare, threatened and endangered species.

Mandated to enforce this code are the law enforcement officers of the Department of Agriculture, the Philippine Navy, Philippine Coast Guard, Philippine National Police and law enforcement officers of the LGUs and other government enforcement agencies, such as the various Bantay-Dagat teams of the local government units.

These corals do not just grow overnight. They take years to form. Destroying coral reefs is stealing the homes of marine life organisms, Legarda said.

“Our law enforcement agencies should go after the perpetrators of this crime against nature and ensure that our seas and marine species are safe from such cruelty,” the senator passionately added.

It is lamentable that a nation like the Philippines that is blessed with a rich biodiversity has been included as one of the world’s top biodiversity hotspots largely because of these acts that destroy the country’s natural resources, environmentalists here said.

In conclusion, Legarda stressed the importance of authorized law enforcement officers to prevent violators to cause such irreparable harm to coral reefs and this should not be tolerated. (PIA-7/mbcn/ with reports from the Office of Senator Legarda)


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Tell it to the Marines

Photo By Sonny Espiritu
Philippine Star, Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Female marines in full battle gear take part in the celebration of the 113th anniversary of Philippine Navy at its headquarters on Roxas Boulevard, Manila

In the navy

Photo By Sonny Espiritu
Manila Standard Today, Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin troops the line during the Navy's 113th founding anniversary. At left, is Vice Admiral Alexander Pama, flag officer in command.

JI's presence being monitored

By Alexis Romero
Philippine Star, Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Marines stand on the deck of the BRP Emilio Liwanag during the 113th anniversary celebration of the Philippine Navy yesterday. The refurbished gunboat will be deployed to Zamboanga to boost internal security operations. Photo By JONJON VICENCIO

MANILA, Philippines - Security forces are closely monitoring the movements of three members of terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) and are bracing for possible military action against them.

Marine Brig. Gen. Romeo Tanalgo, commander of the Sulu-based 2nd Marine brigade, said they have managed to restrict the movements of the terrorists.

“We are closely monitoring the activities of the three JI members for possible military action,” Tanalgo said on the sidelines of the 113th anniversary of the Navy in Manila.

He said one of the JI members believed to be in the south is Marwan, whose real name is Zulkifli Bin Hir. Marwan, reportedly a member of the JI’s central command, has a $5 million bounty for his capture.

Tanalgo did not identify the two other JI members believed to be operating in Mindanao. He said they are continuously stepping up their anti-terror operations to thwart the plans of lawless groups.

Meanwhile, the Navy sent off yesterday its newly refurbished ship BRP Emilio Liwanag to boost its internal security operations.

The ship, which was provided by the South Korean Navy in 2006, will be deployed to Zamboanga and other critical areas, Navy chief Vice Admiral Alexander Pama said.

It is expected to provide support to Marine forces deployed in the south, in line with the so-called Fleet Marine concept. This concept seeks to enhance the interoperability among Navy troops.

Pama said the deployment would intensify the drive against the Abu Sayyaf and other security threats in the country.

“It would be all-inclusive. It is for the ISO (internal security operations). If positioned in the south, this (ship) would support the Fleet Marine concept,” he said.

The military has vowed to remain vigilant despite the death of Osama bin Laden, the founder of international terror group al-Qaeda, which has links to JI and the Abu Sayyaf. 

Bin Laden, the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 US attack, was slain by US Navy Seals in his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

Some sectors have raised concerns that bin Laden’s death could prod his supporters to launch retaliatory attacks. Military officials, however, have given assurance that they are ready to repel such atrocities.

Earlier reports said Saif al-Adel, a former Egyptian military officer, will serve as interim leader of the al-Qaeda until bin Laden’s successor has been named. Al-Adel is reportedly connected with the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, the group tagged in the killing of former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat.

Philippine defense officials are unfazed by the new al-Qaeda leader as they vowed to enhance intelligence gathering to ensure that the Philippines would remain safe.

‘War room’ redesigned for new battle

By Robert Gonzaga, Yolando Sotelo
Philippine Daily Inquirer (Northern Luzon), Wednesday, May 25, 2011

SAN FERNANDO CITY, La Union – THE NAVAL Forces conference room is called a “war room” by personnel of the Philippine Navy station at Poro Point in San Fernando City in La Union. After all, it is where high level meetings and videoconferencing among top Navy officials are held, including perhaps those on threats to the country’s sovereignty.

But on Saturday morning last week, the room was full of children and their parents who joined another kind of battle—the one against the loss of love for reading among many children.

The weapons? Books given away to the participants, along with other gifts such as caps, notebooks and book markers by supporters of the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s Read-Along Session.

And the rules of engagement? Interactive reading by celebrity readers who hoped to instill the love for the written word in the children’s minds and hearts.

Lt. Rodney Cudal, head of the civil military operations at the naval station, and Ensign Edmund Aguila ensured that the program in La Union, one of the eight remotes sites where the session from the Navy headquarters in Manila was beamed through video teleconferencing system, went on smoothly.

Thirty-five children, aged 5 to 15, joined the session. Twenty-seven of them are children of Navy personnel at Poro Point.

The mood at the room was subdued before the session started, as if the children were wondering what the occasion was. The older ones fiddled with mobile phones, or whispered to each other.

Eager anticipation

But the mood changed into eager anticipation when the video feed from Manila was shown on the wall. Cheers and laughter followed as the children tried to follow the steps of “Achochechak,” a song and dance number meant to warm up the children for the session. The ice breaker was led by Alitaptap storytellers Rich Rodriguez and Percy Gapas.

It was all quiet again when the first story, “Si Pilandok at ang Kaharian ng Dagat,” was read by Lt. Maria Angelica Sisican of the Office of the Chief of Naval Staff.

All eyes were on the video wall that showed the book’s colorful pages, even as they listened to Sisican.

Hanna Borja, 12, one of the participants, was chosen to answer a question posed by Sisican, earning her a bag of goodies and books.

The children and their parents burst into cheers when celebrity reader, actor Dingdong Dantes, was seen onscreen. But only his voice was heard when the session started because the video feed flashed the pages of the book, “Lost at Sea,” which he read. The children, however, were all ears.

Dantes, a Navy reservist, read Raechelle Castellon’s story of a girl whose father, a seafarer, was thought to have been lost at sea. When the father was reunited with his daughter, the girl discovered his kindness and generosity.

The story touched the participants’ hearts because most of them are children of Navy men and women who are periodically sent on assignments at sea.

The visuals for the third story, “Si Hipon at si Biya,” written by Carla Pacis, were blurred due to a technical glitch, but the children enjoyed the story just the same.

In Zambales, over 100 participants, mostly Aeta children and children of personnel of the Naval Education and Training Command in San Antonio town joined the session.

Lt. Cmdr. Delbert Siasoyco, public affairs officer of the San Antonio naval station, took up hosting duties with Inquirer correspondent Robert Gonzaga and guided the children through the program.


Former finance sec, private sector move to save the PH navy

By Donna Z Pazzibugan
Philippine Daily Inquirer, Tuesday, May 24, 2011

MANILA, Philippines—Prominent figures in politics, business and civil society, led by former Finance Secretary Jesus Estanislao, have taken up the cudgels for the Philippine Navy by leading a fund-raising and support drive.

They have taken it upon themselves to organize a foundation that seeks to marshal support and resources from the private sector to support the Navy’s modernization and capability-building programs.

They would serve as the founding board of trustees of the “Support Your Navy Foundation”, which was formally launched Tuesday during the Navy’s 113rd anniversary rites.

The multi-sectoral group, however, has served as board of advisers to the Navy since last year.

“We accepted the invitation of the Flag Officer in Command (Vice Admiral Alexander Pama) to serve as board of advisers to save the Navy because we wanted to bring down the many walls keeping the various sectors of society apart,” Estanislao told Navy officers and personnel during the anniversary program.

“We decided to take the lead … We want to say that our Philippine Navy can not do it alone. Our Navy needs the support of all sectors,” added Estanislao, who is chairman of the Institute for Solidarity in Asia.

In his own speech, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin did not mince words as he described the Navy’s state as “truly deplorable” since it has no modern ships and vessels, and hardly any aircraft. The Navy is still using 65-year-old warships from World War II.

“We have thus solicited the support of our stakeholders through the representation of the members of the Navy board of advisers, like-minded professionals who believe in the advocacies of the Navy,” Pama said during the anniversary.

He said the board of advisers has “voluntarily champion(ed) such well-meaning cause through their wise counsel and sound advice on the Navy’s strategic concerns.”

Estanislao said the Support your Navy Foundation would serve as a “major bridge” between the Navy and the private sector to achieve the Navy Sail Plan goal of becoming a “strong and credible Navy” by 2020.

“We believe that together we can become a great maritime nation. We hope we can contribute to a strong Navy,” he said.

The other members of the foundation’s board of trustees are former senator Leticia Shahani; Development Bank of the Philippines president Francisco Del Rosario; Budget Undersecretary Mario Relampagos; National Economic and Development Authority Deputy Director General Margarita Songco; newspaper columnist Jarius Bondoc, former defense undersecretary and Asia Pacific Security Forum president Rodel Cruz; retired vice admiral Eduardo Santos; Asian Architects co-managing partner Miguel Guerrero; University of the Philippines professor Aileen Baviera; lawyer Antonio Oposa; and Doris Magsaysay-Ho of the Magsaysay Group of Companies.

Pama and Capt. Augustus Iglesia who is director of the Naval Resource Management Office, will serve as ex-officio trustees.

Capt. Giovanni Bacordo, director of the Center for Naval Leadership and Excellence, said the foundation would help fund Navy programs since seventy per cent of their budget goes to personnel salaries, while the rest goes to maintenance and operating expenses so there is hardly left for capital outlay.

“Through this foundation, we will no longer be one hundred per cent dependent on the GAA (General Appropriations Act) for the things we need,” he said.

Bacordo said donations to be raised by the foundation may include equipment upgrades, scholarships for Navy personnel, housing facilities and other morale and welfare programs.

He said the foundation would be registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission in June or July.

Navy spokesman Lt. Col. Omar Tonsay said through the foundation, well-meaning private groups and individuals could actively participate in the Navy’s programs.


DND chief graces PHL Navy’s 113th anniversary rites

By PNA and Southern California News Agency/ Asian
The Southern California Pinoy News, Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin graced the 113th founding anniversary on Tuesday of the Philippine Navy (PN) at the PN headquarters along Roxas Boulevard in Malate, Manila.

The celebration had the theme, “A Vital Partner for Peace, Security and Development of our Maritime Nation.”

Highlight of the event was the launching of the “Support your PN Foundation,” send-off ceremony for gunboats BRP Manuel Gomez (PG388), BRP Emilio Liwanag (PG118), and supply ship BRP Dagupan City (LC551) and Static Equipment Display and Demonstration.

The two gunboats and the supply ships are for anti-terror security operations in the Sulu Sea next week.

Navy spokesman Lt. Col. Omar Tonsay said the gunboats are deployed under the Fleet-Marine concept, the Navy’s program devoted to fighting terror in several areas of Western Mindanao.

“They are bringing in supplies and logistics to our units in Western Mindanao. Included in their mission is the conduct of maritime security patrols,” Tonsay said.

Commander Kenneth Tingabngab of the Navy’s Modernization Office said the two gunboats were acquired from South Korea and were upgraded in Navotas City.

He said the Philippine government paid only US$ 100 for the repair of each ship as these were practically donated by South Korea as a goodwill measure.

The 110-foot tall patrol mediums were manufactured in the 1980s and primarily for patrolling and interdiction.


Philippine Navy, Red Alert on Storm Cheden

By Nathan Buenaventura
Philippine News Daily, Tuesday, May 24, 2011

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Navy forces across the country are all set for the expected calamity storm Chedeng may brought to the country.

According to the director of Naval Public Affairs Office, Lt. Col. Omar Tonsay who is based in Metro Manila, they already have alerted all their six naval forces assigned in primary regions in the Philippines.

Tonsay explained that every naval force has at least two disaster response teams, a truck and two rubber boats.

Even their Fleet Marine Ready Force is now standing-by ready to assist all those who will be affected by storm Chedeng.

Meanwhile, the government is also reminding all people, particularly in the affected regions to stay alert and prepare for evacuation order when necessary.


Sunday, May 22, 2011

Navy to deploy 2 gunboats, supply ship for anti-terror operations

By Jaime Laude
Philippine Star, Sunday, May 22, 2011

Manila, Philippines - The Navy will deploy two gunboats and a supply ship for anti-terror security operations in the Sulu Sea next week.

Navy spokesman Lt. Col. Omar Tonsay said Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and Navy chief Vice Admiral Alexander Pama would officially send off BRP Manuel Gomez, BRP Emilio Liwanag and BRP Dagupan City to show its commitment to upgrade its capability.

The deployment of the gunboats and supply ship will coincide with the Navy’s 113th anniversary celebration at its headquarters in Roxas Boulevard, Manila.

Tonsay said the gunboats would be deployed under the Fleet-Marine concept, the Navy’s program devoted to fighting terror in several areas of Western Mindanao.

“They will be bringing in supplies and logistics to our units in Western Mindanao. Included in their mission is the conduct of maritime security patrols,” Tonsay said.

Cmdr. Kenneth Tingabngab of the Navy’s Modernization Office said the two gunboats were acquired from South Korea and were upgraded in Navotas City.

He said the Philippine government paid only $100 for each ship as these were practically donated by South Korea as a goodwill measure.

“By letting the local firms undertake the upgrade, we can generate jobs and promote the local shipyard industry,” Tingabngab said.

The 110-foot tall patrol killer mediums were manufactured in the 1980s and primarily for patrolling and interdiction.

The upgrade involved the refurbishment of the ships’ guns, engines, generators, sensors and communication items. The Navy has six patrol killer mediums in its inventory.

Tingabngab said they are also expecting the delivery of a locally manufactured landing craft utility in August.

Philippine Iron Construction and Marine Works in Misamis Oriental manufactured the 51-meter craft, which cost P178 million.

“Tapping the local industry has advantages. We encourage the local firms to upgrade and we create employment,” Tingabngab said.

The Navy also expects the delivery of three multi-purpose attack craft worth P276 million in December.

“These (multi-purpose attack crafts) can be used for special operations. We already have three of them in the inventory and we will add three more,” Tingabngab said.

He said the Navy’s modernization efforts would boost the morale of troops.

“It brings confidence to the people if they are well-equipped. They will also have a fighting edge,” Tingabngab said.

Other Navy projects to be implemented this year are the one-ton troop carrier (P45,999), two-ton troop and cargo carrier (P80,499), the upgrade of Jacinto class patrol vessel (P353.65 million) and configuration of a 20W radio (P231 million).

The Navy is searching for ways to upgrade its capability as it cannot rely solely on its yearly budget, which is usually allotted for salaries and operational expenses.

It has bared plans to solicit assistance from private firms and individuals who want to help in improving its capabilities. -With Alexis Romero


Navy reservist Dingdong leads PDI simultaneous Read-Along via video

By The Inquirer Read-along Team
Philippine Daily Inquirer, Sunday, May 22, 2011

THE READER Actor Dingdong Dantes reads to poor children and children of Philippine Navy personnel at the Navy headquarters on Roxas Boulevard. It was a simultaneous Read-Along with 8 other naval bases in the country, one of the Navy’s activities to mark its 113th year

MANILA, Philippines—Loud shrieks and applause from hundreds of children and adults from all over the country greeted the actor and Navy reservist Dingdong Dantes as he arrived for a special Inquirer Read-Along session at the Philippine Navy Headquarters on Roxas Boulevard yesterday.

The Saturday session was a simultaneous read-along, greatly facilitated by the Navy’s video teleconferencing system (VTS), so that some 300 children from eight other naval bases around the country were able to join the readings which were mainly conducted in Manila.

Unknown to many, Dantes holds a major sergeant rank as a Navy reservist.

“My grandfather used to be with the Philippine Constabulary. My family has maintained a close relationship with the Navy. So when some of my friends urged me to be a reservist in 2006, I did not hesitate,” he said. He said he also joins Navy activities like medical missions whenever his schedule permits.

“I was actually amazed how I was able to read to kids from different naval stations across the country. It was very interactive,” said the actor who seemed comfortable and at ease even if he was swarmed by star-struck kids.

Allyssa Noveen Sustigmers, 11, a participant from Zamboanga City, said she was especially moved by Dantes’ reading of “Lost at Sea” by Raechelle Castellon, a story about a girl who is reunited with her father, a seafarer whom she thought had been “lost at sea”.

“My father is in the Navy. He is always away, always at sea,” Allyssa said.

In tears

Castellon’s story, which is part of the Gig Seafarer Children’s Stories series published by Gig and the Amazing Sampaguita Foundation, seemed to have a special resonance with the participating children.

“Some shed tears while they were listening to Dantes’ reading,” said Commodore Armando Guzman, the Naval Forces Western Mindanao commander. It could be that they were able to relate to the story because the main character had a similar job to their parents, he said.

Eleven-year-old Irish Roxas said she became appreciative of her father’s kindness and sacrifices from listening to Dantes.

“I learned to give value to my parents’ hard work, just like the girl in the story,” said Roxas, who joined the session in Cavite City.

Navy’s 113th year

Yesterday’s Read-Along session became part of the Navy’s 113th anniversary celebrations.

According to Vice Admiral Alexander P. Pama, Flag Officer in Command of the Philippine Navy, the Navy uses the video teleconferencing technology almost daily for meetings with staff and commanders from other naval forces, precluding the need to travel for conferences.

“We thought, since the technology is already there, we might as well use it for other worthwhile activities, such as reading sessions like this,” he said.

The video feed of the session in Manila was transmitted via the Navy’s VTS to eight other naval stations, where children had been gathered for the readings.

The participating naval bases were Naval Station Ernesto R. Ogbinar in Poro Point, San Fernando City, La Union; Naval Station Julhasan A. Arasain in Rawis, Legazpi; Naval Station Apolinario Jalandoon in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan; Naval Station San Miguel in San Antonio, Zambales; Naval Station Heracleo Alano in Sangley Point, Cavite City; Naval Base Rafael Ramos Mactan Naval Operating Base in Lapu-Lapu City, Cebu; Naval Station Romulo M. Espaldon in Lower Calarian, Zamboanga City; and Naval Station Felix Apolinario in Panacan, Davao City.

Joining the readers was Navy 1st Lt. Marie Angelica Sisican of the Office of the Chief of Naval Staff, who opened the session with “Si Pilandok sa Kaharian sa Dagat” by Victoria AƱonuevo, a story about how Pilandok outsmarted the greedy Datu Usman by luring him with the riches of the sea.

Alitaptap storytellers Rich Rodriguez and Percy Gapas capped the session with a lively tandem reading of “Hipon and Biya” by Carla M. Pacis, which tells how two different sea creatures learn how much they need each other. Both stories were published by Adarna House.

With Navy cameras filming the Manila session, the readers were able to interact with the children in the various naval bases during the question and answer portions that followed each reading.

Session highlight

For the more than 100 children, mostly Aeta and children of Navy personnel, who joined the session in Zambales, the highlight of the event was when Dantes threw a question at a participant in San Antonio.

When Hazel Dumulot, a 13-year-old Aeta girl, answered Dantes’ question correctly, the children gathered at the main classroom of the Naval Education and Training Command (NETC) erupted in cheers and applause.

“We enjoyed watching the story read by Dingdong Dantes and answering his questions,” said Jason Zafra, 7, an orphan under the care of the Children’s Joy Foundation, in Puerto Princesa.

Personal advocacy

Dantes considers education as his personal advocacy. “I really believe in the power of knowledge, that’s why whenever I can, I get involved in activities like this,” he said.

“I tell kids that knowing is half the battle, so reading is really important,” he said.

First-time reader Sisican said the session was a “learning experience.”

“Our events are usually with adults. Children are really different as an audience. You have to always have ideas on how to keep them entertained,” she said.

Most of the children who attended the sessions were first-timers as well. For 10-year-old Dianne Ociel in Manila, the most memorable lesson she learned was from “Lost at Sea”.

“A family should stay together, through the good times and the bad,” she said.

In Davao City, children with the Padre Pio Home for Children, a religious nongovernment organization that provides temporary shelter for abandoned, orphaned and neglected children, attended the session. Kris, 12, said the experience has inspired her to strive more to learn “and encourage other children like me to love the art of reading and the learning that one derives from it.”

Social integration

Lieutenant Colonel Omar Tonsay, director of the Naval Public Affairs Office, said one of the goals of the sessions was to facilitate the interaction of dependents of Navy personnel and underprivileged children.

The participants in all the venues were a mix of Navy dependents and underprivileged kids invited in coordination with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and local government units.

In La Union, the 35 participants gathered at the Poro Point naval station who followed the stories through visuals projected on the wall, said they enjoyed the stories, especially the one read by Dantes, because it had a “happy ending.”

In Southern Luzon, the facilities used only by the naval top brass and off limits to civilians, were transformed into children’s corners, complete with buntings and balloons.

“I wish we can do more of these forms of community service,” said Mercado.

Community service

Lieutenant Darwin Nieva, director of the Public Affairs Office of the Naval Forces of Southern Luzon based in Rawis, Legazpi City, said the Read-Along was a better idea than the free circumcision that the Navy usually provides as a form of community service during the summer months. “It encourages learning,” Nieva said.

The Sangley Point, Cavite City, session drew some 30 children, mostly kids of Navy personnel and those from the poor communities surrounding the naval camp.

“It is also bonding and reaching out to the depressed communities,” said public affairs officer 1st Lieutenant Rommel Rodriguez. With reports from Kate Pedroso and Lawrence de Guzman, Inquirer Research; Yolanda Sotelo and Charles Keith, Inquirer Northern Luzon; Robert Gonzaga, Inquirer Central Luzon; Maricar Cinco, Juan Escandor Jr. and Redempto Anda, Inquirer Southern Luzon; Edison delos Angeles and Cris Evert Lato, Inquirer Visayas; Julie Alipala and Jeffrey Tupas, Inquirer Mindanao; and Marz Ragpala, intern.