Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), has instructed the Philippine Navy (PN) to step up its operations to defend the country’s maritime interests.
The top military commander issued the call as he made his first visit to the PN at the Bonifacio Naval Station in Taguig City on Tuesday, May 25, where he was received by Vice Admiral Giovanni Carlo Bacordo, PN Flag Officer in Command.
The time-honored military tradition of newly-assumed AFP chief making rounds to all major services and military camps is being conducted as a way to rally the troops, reaffirm commitment, and boost their morale towards achieving the overall objectives of the AFP. Sobejana assumed as the 55th AFP Chief last February 4.
During his visit, Sobejana witnessed a capability demonstration of the Philippine Marine Corps (PMC) and was apprised on the unit command’s current thrusts.
“With the available resources on hand, the AFP shall effectively maximize the utilization of these newly-acquired assets in defending what is rightfully ours,” Sobejana told the sailors and marines.
While Sobejana did not specify what he was referring to in his speech, the military is at the center of attention as the country continues to protest the incursion of over 200 Chinese fishing vessels in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro “Teddyboy” Locsin Jr. have persistently urged Beijing to withdraw their fishing vessels in the areas being claimed by Manila in the South China Sea (SCS) since March.
Last Friday, the Philippines and China held the sixth meeting of the Bilateral Consultation Mechanism on the South China Sea (BCM) where both nations agreed that dialogue is an important avenue to resolve the conflict in the SCS through peaceful means.
But while Manila and Beijing are trying to discuss how to best solve their conflicting interests in the SCS, Sobejana recognized the PN sailors and marines who “have exemplified steadfastness as they vigilantly secure our territory through the conduct of relentless maritime security operations.”
Since the swarming of Chinese vessels in the WPS was monitored in March, the PN has deployed various ships in the WPS for patrol operations along with the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR).
“Indeed, it is the men and women of the Philippine Navy, who stand tall at the frontlines, as we deploy naval and air assets to assert our sovereign rights,” Sobejana said.