General Andres Centino, Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), visited one of the country’s farthest detachments in Balabac, Palawan on Thursday, May 19, to raise the morale of the soldiers and strengthen the security operations in the area that has been habitually encroached by foreign vessels.
Centino flew to Bugsuk Island as part of his regular troop visit especially in far-flung military bases and detachments, according to Col. Jorry Baclor, chief of AFP public affairs office.
“The Chief of Staff checked on the troops guarding the detachment in Singkab Port and expressed his gratitude for their dedication to ensuring the community’s safety,” Baclor said.
“General Centino also congratulated the soldiers for their contribution to ensuring a safe and secure election last May 9 in the municipality of Balabac,” he added.
Since assuming the top leadership of the AFP in November 2021, Centino has been visiting troops on the frontlines to check their morale and ensure that they are always ready and capable of performing their tasks in protecting the people and securing the territory of the country.
In particular, Centino’s visit to Balabac was deemed crucial for the territorial defense of the troops as foreign vessels frequently pass through its waters while ignoring the required prior coordination to the Philippine government.
In June 2019, the AFP’s Western Command (WesCom) said four Chinese vessels encroached in Balabac Strait and did not heed to the radio communication from the Filipino troops that challenged their passage.
Several dozens to hundreds of foreign vessels, most of them Chinese maritime militia, have also been spotted in other areas claimed and occupied by the Philippines in the West Philippine Sea in recent months.
In response, patrol ships and planes were deployed by the AFP and Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) in the disputed areas to assert the country’s sovereignty.