President Benigno S. Aquino III on Wednesday attended the 118th anniversary celebration of the Philippine Navy (PN), which was highlighted by the simultaneous commissioning of the new landing dock (LD) vessel, the Barko ng Republika ng Pilipinas (BRP) Tarlac and the christening of three new landing craft heavy (LCH) vessels at the Pier 13 South Harbor in Manila.
Upon arrival, the President was accorded full military honors by the Fleet Marine Battalion, headed by Capt. Mac Raul Racacho, with Navy Vice Admiral Caesar Taccad as the military host.
President Aquino then witnessed the commissioning ceremony of the four vessels before boarding the BRP Tarlac to inspect the mess hall on Deck 3, the admiral’s mess and VIP room on Deck 4, and the bridge and control room on Deck 5.
During the tour of the ship’s facilities, the President was accompanied by Vice Admiral Taccad, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Acting Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Glorioso Miranda.
After the tour, President Aquino was ushered to Deck 3 for the program proper. The Chief Executive was assisted by Vice Admiral Taccad, Secretary Gazmin and Lt. Gen. Miranda during the presentation of awards to the Navy’s outstanding officers, enlisted personnel, and civilian employees for serving with honor and excellence.
The awardees were Naval Forces Eastern Mindanao (Naval Operating Forces of the Year), Naval Education and Training Command (PN Support Command of the Year), Naval Intelligence and Security (PN Support Unit of the Year), Littoral Combat Force, Philippine Fleet (PN Fleet Force/Group of Year) and the 1st Marine Brigade, Philippine Marine Corps (Best Marine Brigade of the Year).
Also recognized were Lt. JG Reginald Balidoc and 1st Lt. Jereck Ian Duliguez (Military Merit Medal); Lt. Noel Aurellano, UO3 Oliver Nercuit, 1Lt. Renante Cabugnason and Cpl. Felipe Barbadillo (Gold Cross Medal); Commander Norman Biola (Meritorious Achievement Medal); Sgt. Ardel Soriano (PN Enlisted Personnel); and Esteban Bading (Model Civilian Employee of the Year) and Lorelie dela Cruz (Model Civilian Supervisor of the Year).
In his speech, President Aquino expressed his gratitude to the Philippine Navy for its unparalleled service to the Filipino people.
“Kasabay ng pagbibigay-lakas ng inyong gobyerno sa inyong hukbo, tinapatan din ninyo ang lahat ng ito ng wagas na serbisyo sa ating mga Boss, ang sambayanang Pilipino,” he said.
“Mula sa pagtutok sa ating panloob na seguridad; sa pinaigting na pagpapatrolya at pagbabantay sa ating teritoryo, partikular na sa West Philippine Sea; hanggang sa pag-agapay sa ating mga Boss, lalo na sa panahon ng sakuna at kalamidad. Sa patong-patong na problemang hinarap ng Pilipinas, patong-patong na dunong, husay, at tibay din ang inyong ipinamalas. Kaya nga, sa ngalan ng bawat Pilipinong araw-araw ninyong pinapanatag ang loob at inilalayo sa peligro: Maraming, maraming salamat po sa inyo,” the President said, taking note of the P60.14 billion allocated by the government for the AFP Modernization and Capability Upgrade Program.
“Para sa Navy, tangan na natin ngayon ang limang Naval Helicopters at tatlong Multi-Purpose Attack Craft. Bukod sa mga ito, paparating na rin ang iba pang assets, tulad ng dalawang Frigates, dalawang Anti-Submarine Warfare Capable na Helicopters, ang pangatlo nating Weather High Endurance Cutter,” he further said.
“Tinutukan din natin ang iba pa ninyong mga pangangailangan. Pinirmahan natin ang Executive Order No. 201 nitong Pebrero, na nagpataas ng inyong Monthly Hazard Pay, Provisional Allowance, at Officers’ Allowance. Isama pa natin ang inyong Monthly Combat Pay, Subsistence Allowance, at siyempre, ang AFP/PNP (Philippine National Police) Housing Program,” he added.
With 29 days left before his term ends, President Aquino said he is honored to have served as commander-in-chief of the armed forces.
“Halos anim na taon din tayong nagsilbi bilang Ama ng Bayan, at inyo pong punong pangkalahatan. Hanggang sa mga huling araw ko, talagang hindi ko malilimutan ang panahong ito, kung saan tumindig ang Sandatahang Lakas ng Pilipinas, at nagpamalas ng di matatawarang serbisyo at malasakit sa kapwa at bayan. Tiwala naman ako: Kapag tumuloy tayo sa nasimulan nating landas, pihadong gaganda pa ang serbisyo sa inyo, at ang serbisyo ninyo sa ating bansa,” he said.
“Sa inyong lahat: Isang napakalaking karangalan ang pamunuan kayo. Isang karangalang magsilbi nang tapat at totoo sa ating dakilang lahi, ang sambayanang Pilipino.”
The event was also attended by Indonesian Ambassador to the Philippines Johny Lumintang, Philippine Air Force Chief Lt. Gen. Edgar Fallorina, PNP Chief Director General Ricardo Marquez, Philippine Coast Guard Commandant Rear Admiral William Melad, and Interior and Local Government Secretary Mel Senen Sarmiento.
The P1.9-billion BRP Tarlac (LD 601), which is the first strategic sealift vessel of the Navy, was acquired through the AFP Modernization Program. It was named after one of the eight provinces that revolted against the Spaniards during the colonization period. Likewise, BRP Tarlac is the name of a former PN amphibious warfare vessel, the LT 500, a Landing Ship Tank that was decommissioned in June 1998.
Built by PT PAL Indonesia (Persero) in Surabaya, the design of BRP Tarlac was modelled after the Makassar-class Landing Platform Dock of the Indonesian Navy. The ship measures 123 meters in length and 21 meters in width, with a payload capacity of 2,800 tons. It has a maximum speed of 16 knots.
The three LCHs are the supplementary vessels procured by the government in conjunction with the two vessels of the same kind that were previously donated by the Australian government. The vessels were christened BRP Waray (LC288), the group of people who were hard hit by Typhoon Yolanda; Iwak (LC289), an ethnic group in Nueva Viscaya province with the least number of population; and Agta (LC290), an endangered tribe in Southern Luzon.
The new acquisitions are expected to boost the Navy’s capability in transporting personnel, equipment, and aid during humanitarian assistance and disaster response operations. The ships will also be useful in transporting troops from one operational area to another.
Meanwhile, Vice Admiral Taccad assured that the Navy is more than ready to keep fulfilling its role for national development through the continuing upgrade of its facilities and strengthening of personnel’s competency and commitment that all lead up to becoming the modern, formidable Navy capable of protecting the seas and securing the future. PND (jm)