President Aquino attends Armed Forces’ 80th anniversary celebration

CLARK AIR BASE, Pampanga, (PNA) -- President Benigno S. Aquino III on Monday expressed his gratitude to the unwavering commitment, passion and dedication of the members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), which celebrated its 80th anniversary at the Air Force City here.

The President was joined by Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and top-ranking officials of the Philippine Army, Philippine Navy, and Philippine Air Force during the celebration, which showcased the country's military assets, including its newly-acquired FA-50 Golden Eagle jet fighter planes and combat helicopters.

He said the AFP's Modernization and Credibility Upgrade Program is the government's way of making the military stronger, more adequately equipped and well provisioned.

"Masasabi ko nga po na talagang full circle na po tayo. Ngayon, saan ka man bumaling sa AFP, makikita mo ang malawakang pagbabago, na patunay na nasa likod, harap, at tabi ninyo ang inyong gobyerno at ang mamamayang Pilipino,” said the President, who was guest of honor and speaker of the event.

“Tingnan na lang natin ang mga naisakatuparang big-ticket items para sa modernisasyon ng inyong hukbo: Ang tatlong naunang administrasyon sa atin, 45 na proyekto ang naipatupad, na may kabuuang halagang PhP31.75 billion. Sa inyong pakikiisa, nagawa nating tapatan at higitan iyan; ngayon, meron na tayong 45 na mga proyektong nakumpleto, at ang nailabas na budget para rito mula noong maupo tayo ay nasa PhP56.79 billion. Bukod pa rito ang pagpapatupad natin sa Medium-Term Capability Development hanggang sa 2017; aabot ito ng PhP83.9 billion," he added.

"Ngayon ho, nariyan na ang malalaking asset para lalong lumakas ang inyong lifting capability, lalo na sa panahon ng sakuna,” the President said, referring to the additional C-130s, three C-295 medium lift transports, two Landing Craft Heavy from Australia, various troop carrier trucks, modern rifles and guns, and night fighting system.

"Para naman sa mas mabibigat na operasyon, nariyan ang BRP Ramon Alcaraz at BRP Gregorio Del Pilar, pati na ang mga bagong combat utility at attack helicopters, ang inyong mga multi-purpose attack craft, at mga armored personnel carrier. Sa loob din ng ating administrasyon, sa unang pagkakataon, matapos ang isang dekada, meron na muli tayong makabago at matikas na mga fighter jet; lumapag na ang unang dalawang unit sa binili nating 12 na FA-50 fighters, at asahan ninyong darating ang mga ka-squadron nila bago matapos ang 2017,” he said.

The Chief Executive also noted plans to acquire new frigates and strategic sealift vessel, as well as Long-Range Patrol and Close Air Support Aircraft, and engineering equipment.

“Kasama din ho natin ang US at ang Japan, ang dalawa sa tatlo nating strategic partners, sa pagpapalawak sa kakayahan at kaalaman ng ating AFP," said President Aquino.

The President also mentioned the implementation of various measures that provided housing, enhanced pensions, and increased combat pay and meal allowances for the welfare of the soldiers and their families.

"Kung medical services naman ng AFP ang pag-uusapan, nariyan po ang bagong pasilidad sa Camp Bautista Station Hospital sa Sulu, pati na ang pag-upgrade sa operating room ng AFP Medical Center sa Quezon City. Nariyan na rin ang mga bagong field ambulance, pati na ang kinakailangan para sa First Forward Medics. Patuloy naman tayong nakatutok sa pagbili pa ng karagdagang medical at dental equipment para sa buong AFP,” he said.

President Aquino reported that 99 percent of the second phase of the housing program for military and police personnel has been completed and that their subsistence allowance and monthly combat pay have been increased.

“Nariyan din ang livelihood programs para sa mga kawal, aktibo man o retirado. Patuloy naman ang ating mga hakbang upang tuluyang maitaguyod ang isang makatarungan at patas na sistemang pampensiyon para sa mga tagapagtanggol ng taumbayan. Bilang mamamayan, meron ho kayong mga benepisyong hindi naiiba sa tangan ng iba nating kababayan. Halimbawa na ho nito ang mas pinalakas at pinalawig na PhilHealth; at ang ating gusto pong idiin ay talagang pinagsisikapan ng inyong gobyerno na maihatid sa inyo ang serbisyong inaasahan ng bawat Pilipino,” he said.

President Aquino further recognized the sacrifices made by the country’s uniformed personnel.

"Sa bawat intelligence briefing at mission update na ibinahagi sa akin, at maging sa mga kuwentong ipinaabot ng inyong mga pinuno at commanding officers, naging saksi ako sa mga sakripisyo at pagsisikap ng ating mga kawal, na buong-tapang, buong-kagitingan, at buong-loob na ginampanan ang sinumpaang tungkulin. Madalas nga ho, ako, kasama ng liderato ng ating AFP, ang tanging nakakaalam sa mga misyong inyong napagtagumpayan, na ang naging kapalit ay blood, sweat, at maging tears sa inyong hanay,” he said.

He further commended those who have been stationed at the West Philippine Sea.

"Lahat tayo, talagang napabilib naman sa paninindigan ng ating mga Marines na nagtatanod sa West Philippine Sea. Sila at ang iba pa nating mga kawal ang nagbabantay sa mga liblib na bahagi ng ating teritoryo. Sa labas ng ating bansa naman, nariyan ang ating peacekeepers, gaya ng mga nadestino sa Golan Heights, na kahit malagay sa dehadong posisyon ay talagang ipinamalas ang diskarte, talas ng isip, at kahandaan ng ating lahi na gawin ang tama.”

The President also acknowledged the services rendered by military personnel who led rescue operations during the onslaught of such typhoons as Sendong, Pablo, Yolanda, Santi, Ruby, Lando, and the recent Nona and Onyok, as well as uniformed personnel who secured Pope Francis and leaders who attended last month’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting.

“Mga kasama, sa ngalan nga po ng ating mga Boss, tanggapin ninyo ang aming taos-pusong pasasalamat para sa hindi matatawarang serbisyo ng bawat opisyal, sundalo, reservist, at kawani na bumubuo sa kagalang-galang na Sandatahang Lakas ng Pilipinas. Sa inyong pagpapakitang-gilas, talaga namang hindi nakakabigla ang panibagong tibay ng tiwala ng ating sambayanan,” he said.

President Aquino said it is an honor to be the commander-in-chief of an armed forces that is ready to face any challenge.

"Tunay nga pong napakalaking karangalan para sa akin ang makapaglingkod bilang Commander-in-Chief ng isang Sandatahang Lakas na di nagpapadaig sa anumang hamon at sumasalamin sa pinakamatatayog na ideyal ng lahing Pilipino, " he said.

The celebration featured the fly-by of two brand new FA-50 jet fighters, which were delivered from South Korea last month.

The two fighter jets are part of the 12 FA-50 multi-purpose airplanes acquired by the Department of National Defense for the AFP modernization program. The delivery of the remaining 10 jets will be completed between 2016 and 2017.

The FA-50 is powered by an F404-GE-102 high trust engine that used afterburners to go supersonic to attain the maximum speed of Mach 1.5 (1,838 kilometers per hour). It is equipped with a state-of-the-art radar that can track down multiple targets simultaneously. The pilot is equipped with a night vision device.

Aside from the FA-50s, the air force also made a fly-by of 24 other air assets, such as S211 trainer jets, C-295 medium lift aircraft, C-130, SF-260, Bell 412EP utility helicopters, UH-1D, UH-IH, Sokol helicopters, and AW109P helicopters.

The AFP parade also included V150, Simba, V300 armored vehicles, M35 trucks, water filtration with truck, boom truck, M35 with fiberglass boat, rubber boat, and other military vehicles.

During the anniversary celebration, outstanding AFP members and stakeholders, who showed passion to service and bravery on the field of duty were recognized.

The awardees were Presidential Security Group Commander Raul Ubando (Philippine Legion of Honor); Army Captain Dranreb Lansang (Distinguished Conduct Star); Brig. General Apolinario Alobba (Distinguished Service Star); Navy Sergeant Raul Montero, TSgt. Menardo Ibanez and Pfc. Ronie Gusto (Gold Cross Medal); 2Lt. Rezel Faith Sela (Meritorious Achievement Medal); MSg. Bernard Blanco and Pfc. Cyrus Vincent Verdote (Bronze Cross Medal); CAA Yolly Perez (Kagitingan sa Barangay – Maginoo); TSg. Joel Alegre (AFP Enlisted Personnel of the Year); Engineer Wenefredo Abalos (AFP Model Civilian Supervisor of the Year); Efren Tabtab (AFP Model Civilian Employee of the Year); C/Col. Juan Miguel Cabrera (Male ROTC Cadet of the Year); and Cdt. LtC Lanie Martinez (Female ROTC Cadet of the Year).

Recipients of the AFP Bayanihan Award were Dario Otaza, former mayor of Loreto, Agusan del Sur; the HERO Foundation Inc.; Father Marciano Evangelista; and the Wanita Dan Harapan Foundation.(PNA)


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