By Francis Wakefield and Jonas Reyes
The Japanese Akizuki-class Destroyer arrived in Subic Bay on Friday for a three-day goodwill visit in the country with about 200 officers and crew, among them Japan’s first-ever female commander of a warship squadron.
The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) vessel “JS Akizuki” (DD-115), a guided missile destroyer with one SH-60J helicopter, docked at the Alava Wharf – making it the second visit of a JMSDF ship in the country this year after “JS Amagiri” in Manila last February.
Captain Lued L. Lincuna, Philippine Naval Public Affairs director, said the “BRP Emilio Jacinto” (PS-35) rendered customary meeting procedures in the vicinity of Morong, Bataan and escorted the vessels to its designated anchorage area.
Philippine Navy delegates headed by the representative of the Flag-Officer-in-, Captain Francis Alexandrer R. Jose, accorded the visiting navy a welcome ceremony upon arrival followed by a port briefing related to health and security aboard JS Akizuki.
Many eyes were on Captain Ryoko Azuma, commander of JMSDF’s Escort Division One and the first female to command a warship squadron.
Azuma, along with Commander Kazunori Ishii, commanding officer of JS Akizuki, will call on the Commander of the Naval Education and Training Command (NETC), Rear Admiral Allan Ferdinand V. Cusi in San Antonio, Zambales.
Since her appointment Mar. 8, 2018, Azuma will command four ships and a combined crew of 1,000 which make up the First Escort Service in JMSDF, the naval branch of Japan’s Self-Defense Forces (SDF).
Azuma said that Japanese Navy will engage in a series of confidence building activities with their Philippine Navy (PN) counterparts such as goodwill games followed by a boodle fight.
She said that the visit aims to strengthen the relationship between the two navies.
The 44-year-old Japanese female naval chief said that during the time she joined the JMSDF in 1996, women were forbidden to serve on warships. Azuma said that this rule was abolished ten years ago, with the exception of Japanese submarines were only men are allowed to serve.