The country now has a modern Philippine Navy fleet following the multi-billion-peso acquisition of the brand new sea vessels and anti-submarine helicopters, President Aquino proudly declared on Wednesday.
In his farewell address during the 118th anniversary of the Philippine Navy in Manila, the President said the military has vastly improved its equipment and capability to guard and defend the country’s territorial waters, far from the outdated fleet inherited from the past administration.
The anniversary ceremony coincided with the commissioning of BRP Tarlac, the Navy’s biggest and first-ever sealift sea vessel, and three landing craft heavies.
“Ngayon, makalipas ang halos anim na taon, kayo na siguro mismo ang makakapagsabi: Nabigyang-lakas na natin ang inyong hanay. Pinasigla natin ang inyong surface fleet, gumanda na ang ating air arm, binubuhay na natin ang ating anti-submarine capability; at ang lahat ng ito, nagagamit na natin sa national security operations,” Aquino said.
“Di po ba, noon, napipilitan na lang kayong idaan ang misyon sa tapang at abilidad? Ngayon, ibinibigay na ang mga kasangkapan at kagamitang kayo mismo ang tumukoy, para maging mas mahusay kayo sa pagtutupad ng inyong sinumpaang tungkulin,” he added.
From July 2010 to May 2016, the President said the government has released R60.14 billion for the Armed Forces modernization and capability upgrade program, more than double the combined funds allowed by the past three administrations. At least 68 modernization projects have been pursued, compared to the 45 projects from his three past presidents, Aquino said.
For the Navy, Aquino said the country has five naval helicopters and three multi-purpose attack craft. Also forthcoming are naval assets such as two frigates, two anti-submarine warfare capable helicopters and the country’s third weather high endurance cutter.
At the same anniversary rites, the President said unlike other previous local ships, BRP Tarlac will be faster, more reliable and can transport more troops and supplies.
BRP Tarlac is one of the two strategic sealift vessels acquired by the government from Indonesian shipbuilder PT PAL for R3.8 billion.
“Magsisilbi itong multi-role vessel, na maaaring gamitin, di lang sa military operations, kundi ma-ging sa humanitarian assistance, disaster response, sealift and logistics, mobile government administration, search and rescue, at mass evacuation,” he said.
Aquino said the second sealift vessel is expected to be delivered next year.
Also commissioned to service were three landing craft heavies, called BRP Agta, BRP Iwak, and BRP Waray, which were acquired from the Royal Australian Navy for R270 million. Aquino said these sea vessels will help in the country’s humanitarian and disaster response efforts.
This July, Aquino said the RV Melville, a general purpose oceanographic research vessel, will be delivered to help in the mapping of the country’s seabed and ocean floor.
Apart from equipment upgrade, Aquino said the government also looked out for the welfare of soldiers by raising monthly hazard pay, provisional allowance and officers’ allowance. (GENALYN D. KABILING)