MANILA, Philippines – In the middle of a week revolving around security issues and threats to the country’s maritime territories, President Benigno Aquino III welcomed a new chief to lead the Navy.
On Wednesday, April 30, Aquino presided over the change of command ceremony at Sangley Point, Cavite, which saw the retirement of Vice Admiral Jose Luis Alano, flag officer-in-command of the Philippine Navy, and the induction of Rear Admiral Jesus Millan as the new Navy chief.
Aquino emphasized the recent challenges faced by the Philippines in protecting its waters, and highlighted the increasingly important role the Navy must play to keep Filipinos safe.
He said this is the reason there must be extra care in choosing a leader who is “capable, with integrity, and always sides with what’s right.”
“He must have the ability to see the grand scheme of the whatever situation, alert, and careful about his strategies and the implications of his actions. He must not only be able to roll with the tide, but also be able to direct the Navy towards the right direction for the country,” the President said.
Aquino praised Alano for his service and for possessing the qualities needed of a good leader, and credited him for his leadership in missions like the Lahad Datu incident, the Zamboanga crisis, the patrol of territories especially the West Philippine Sea, and in rescue and relief operations during typhoon Pablo, the Cebu and Bohol earthquake, and Super Typhoon Yolanda.
He then focused on Millan, who he said he trusted to continue Alano’s example.
Millan, who has served the Navy for 35 years, was a surface warfare officer, navy pilot and, most recently, Commander of Naval Forces of Western Mindanao.
“May you offer your wisdom and skills to further strengthen and give confidence to the Philippine Navy. The time will come when your term will end and your service will also be evaluated and your successes remembered,” Aquino told the new navy chief.
The induction comes as the Philippines is embroiled in a territorial dispute with China over areas of the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea). Tensions have escalated in recent years as an increasingly muscular China builds up its naval and coast guard presence in the area, drawing complaints from the Philippines of Chinese bullying.
Aquino also heaped praise on the Marines who guarded the disputed Ayungin Shoal for their bravery and their service.
Aquino was referring to the constant harassment of Philippine civilian boats with supplies for the Ayungin Shoal soldiers by Chinese coast guard ships. A Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) vessel, with local and foreign journalists, managed to slip past a Chinese ship on March 29, allowing the Marines to come home after 5 months.
The incident happened on the eve of Philippines’ filing of a historic pleading with an international arbitral tribunal against China’s claims.
The President reaffirmed his commitment to modernize the navy – an investment, he said, for the future of the country.
Aquino highlighted the country’s recent maritime challenges and emphasized his revised AFP Modernization Program, which paved the way for the navy’s newest ships and aircraft.
Among the navy’s newest acquisitions are two Cutters, BRP Gregorio del Pilar and BRP Ramon Alcaraz; BRP Tagbanua, the first Philippine-made landing craft; modernized vessels; 3 new naval helicopters; and the repair of coast watch stations.
“I just want to make it clear: All this is not to brag that our navy is now modern. Every cent allocated for armed forces, every bullet in every weapon, every screw in every vehicle, are all for the sole purpose of strengthening service to the Filipino and the whole country. All this investment is for greater peace, stability, and progress in our country,” he said. – Rappler.com
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