Tag Archive: navy


Rear Admiral Caesar Taccad took over as Philippine Navy chief Aug. 10, 2015 (photo by author)

Rear Admiral Caesar Taccad took over as Philippine Navy chief Aug. 10, 2015 (photo by author)

Newly installed Navy chief Rear Admiral Caesar Taccad yesterday downplayed China’s military buildup in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) but stressed the need for more firepower for the force, considered as one of the weakest in the Asia-Pacific.

“We’ll come up with acquisitions of needed firepower, additional firepower for us to be able to deter any naval force that would try to stop us from employing our assets to assert soveriegnty over our waters,” Taccad told reporters.

Taccad made the remark when asked how the Philippine Navy will respond to China’s military buildup in the West Philippine Sea, given the former’s limited capabilities.

Rocket-armed versions of the Navy's new AW-109 helicopters (photo by author)

Rocket-armed versions of the Navy’s new AW-109 helicopters (photo by author)

“Kailangan natin ma-cover o ma-patrolya ang karagatan in order to impose that we have sovereignty over this sea,” he said.

Taccad, however, noted that the situation with China is not as threatening as before.

“Considering that it’s much heated before, I think we are in a better position now. We are communicating with China, and more or less not as threatened as before. You know what they are trying to do and we try to maintain more or less a peaceful coexistence or settlement of what issue we have,” he said.

BRP Ivatan, one of two landing craft heavy (LCH) ships donated by Australia, was christened ahead of Taccad's taking over of the Navy (photo by author)

BRP Ivatan, one of two landing craft heavy (LCH) ships donated by Australia, was christened ahead of Taccad’s taking over of the Navy (photo by author)

Taccad also said that he does not see China’s reclamation and construction works on seven reefs in the hotly-contested Kalayaan (Spratly) Island Group as an “expansion.”

“I dont see any expansion from China. They have been there for a long time and they are guarding what they think is their interest in the South China Sea… No expansion happening, they are just pursuing what they think is their interest,” he said.

President Benigno Aquino III installed Taccad as the 35th Navy chief, replacing Vice Admiral Jesus Millan who reached the compulsory retirement age of 56 yesterday.

Millan bid farewell to the force with a literary piece that used names of the nine Philippine-held territories in the Spratlys.

Taccad, on the other hand, vowed to transform the force into a “strong and formidable” Navy.

Before the turnover ceremony, the Navy held a “christening” for two landing craft heavy (LCH) ships donated by Australia and two rocket-armed AW-109 Power helicopters acquired from Anglo-Italian aircraft maker AugustaWestland. (John Roson)

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Poro Point, La Union – One of the US’ newest sealift vessels was not challenged by Chinese ships while heading to the port here for humanitarian activities, a ranking US military official said.

Captain James Meyer, commander of the Task Force Forager on board the USNS Millinocket, said they did not even see any Chinese ship while en route.

“Very well, uneventful, great voyage, no problems,” Meyer told reporters in a briefing Thursday.

Captain Joel Roos, surgeon of the US 7th Fleet, said even the commercial plane he rode from Japan was not challenged.

“I flew on a Philippine Airlines from Tokyo so if there was a challenge, it could be in the news right now,” Roos said in jest.

Reporters asked the US military officials if they experienced being challenged by Chinese ships while heading for La Union, a province facing the West Philippine Sea.

Last May, a Chinese warship told a US Navy Poseidon surveillance plane to leave while the latter was flying over those waters.

The incident was recorded and reported by international news network CNN, whose crew joined the flight.

The USNS Millinocket, a ship that can carry as many as a battalion of troops and entered service only in May 2014, arrived in Poro Point, San Fernando City, La Union, on Tuesday to serve as a secondary platform for the humantarian aid program Pacific Partnership.

Another ship, the floating hospital USNS Mercy, serves as the primary platform and is docked in Subic Bay, Zambales, which is also facing the West Philippine Sea.

Also docked in Subic Bay is the Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine USS Chicago, who is in a visit to showcase the latest capabilities of the submarine fleet.

While the Millinocket, Mercy, and Chicago are all docked in the country, it was learned that several other US vessels were underway near the Philippines as August began.

Among them are the guided-missile destroyer USS Lassen and the littoral combat ship USS Fort Worth, who were at the Philippine Sea and at the South China Sea, respectively, on August 1, according to information from the US Pacific Fleet website.

At the Pacific Partnership in La Union, a US medical task force will embark on technical exchanges and medical engagements, while Filipino and American troops are also set to build three two-room schoolhouses, conduct disaster preparedness seminars, and tabletop exercises that simulate disasters, Meyer said. (John Roson)

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Poro Point, La Union – The Navy has merged its two regional units guarding the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) to boost efficiency in handling maritime issues, a ranking official said Thursday.

Naval Forces West, whose area of operations includes the disputed Kalayaan (Spratly) Island Group, was merged with Naval Forces North, whose area covers Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, Captain Albert Mogol told reporters here.

The merger was a result of Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin’s directive of “addressing a common threat,” Mogol said.

The unified naval group, activated July 6, is now known as Naval Forces North-West.

It has its headquarters in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan, and operates Task Force 41 from there, while Task Force 11 commanded by Mogol is based here.

Task Force 41 now handles all areas in the West Philippine Sea including Panatag Shoal, while Task Force 11 retained “traditional roles” like patrolling waters of Northern Luzon.

“It’s now the country’s biggest naval task force, [covering] five regions and 24 provinces,” Mogol said of Task Force 41.

Under one command, troops and ships can be easily sent to respond to incidents such as poachers operating off Luzon then speeding away towards Palawan.

“What we want is a more efficient command and control against a common threat,” Mogol said.

The official declined to reveal how many ships and troops are now under Naval Forces North-West, saying only that a “sufficient number” had been dedicated.

‘Eye in the north’

Meanwhile, Mogol said the Navy has also set up an identification system in Batanes to monitor foreign vessels entering the country.

Marines are manning the “littoral monitoring detachment,” which shares a building with the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration outpost since March, he said.

“We have already an eye in the north,” Mogol said, declining to give further details.

Maritime security issues in Batanes flared recently, after the Philippine Coast Guard said Taiwan counterparts engaged them in standoffs near the northern island province. (John Roson)

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A US Navy LCU participating in last April's Balikatan exercises in Zambales (photo by author)

A US Navy LCU participating in last April’s Balikatan exercises in Zambales (photo by author)

The Philippine Navy has received a landing ship donated by South Korea and is now repairing it ahead of deployments for post-disaster and military operations.

Navy chief Vice Admiral Jesus Millan said the landing craft utility (LCU) from South Korea arrived May 30 and is now at the naval shipyard in Cavite for “some machinery and equipment repairs.”

South Korea handed the vessel for free, along with 16 rubber boats, with the Navy paying only P16 million for the shipping cost, Millan said.

“It was shipped direct from Korea… We just paid for its shipping cost. It will be a big boost for HADR (humanitarian assistance and disaster relief) operations and troop transport,” he said in a text message.

US Navy LCU-1631 and USS Green Bay during April's Balikatan exercises in Zambales (photo by author)

US Navy LCU-1631 and USS Green Bay during April’s Balikatan exercises in Zambales (photo by author)

Current repairs are estimated to cost P26 million which, even if added to the shipping cost, is way lower than buying a brand new LCU for P6 billion, Millan said.

Before this, the Navy only had five LCUs, of which three are in operation and two are undergoing repairs, according to Millan.

The newly-arrived LCU has better capabilities than the ones already in the fleet because it is of a newer model, he said.

South Korea offered the LCU, rubber boats, and computers when Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin visited that country in June 2014.

US Navy LCU 1651 (photo from Wikipedia Commons)

US Navy LCU 1651 (photo from Wikipedia Commons)

South Korean officials said the offer — which came amid the Philippines’ territorial row with China in the West Philippine Sea — is for expressing their gratitude to Filipino soldiers’ role in the Korean War during the 1950s.

Following Gazmin’s visit to Seoul, the Department of Foreign Affairs said South Korea will also donate a “Pohang”-class corvette — a type of warship — to the Navy.

Government officials, however, have been mum on the corvette since then, as talk came out that China was “angered” by the offer and threatened to “unleash” North Korea against the South if it continues “arming” the Philippines. (John Roson)

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An FA-50 fighter jet. (photo grabbed from KAI website http://www.koreaaero.com/)

An FA-50 fighter jet. (photo grabbed from KAI website http://www.koreaaero.com/)

The Armed Forces’ Central Command in Cebu has started building facilities to host fighter jets and other aircraft which the Air Force will use for territorial defense, military officials said.

Lieutenant General Jeffrey Delgado, Air Force chief, said the Central Command, particularly the 2nd Air Division, was chosen to host new aircraft because of its “strategic location,” which allows it to quickly send planes to Luzon in the north, Mindanao in the south, or Palawan in the west.

“We intend to put up more hangars here for our fighter aircraft and our transport aircraft and helicopters,” Delgado said in an interview by state-run television PTV-4.

Lieutenant General Nicanor Vivar, Centcom chief, said construction of hangars at the 2nd Air Division started about three months ago.

Construction projects presently being carried out fall under the AFP Modernization’s “First Horizon,” which has a total cost of P90 billion, Vivar said.

“A lot of development will be done here soon,” including docks for Navy ships, he said.

The Department of National Defense earlier announced that it allocated P135.99 million for base support systems of fighter jets, particularly the South Korean-made FA-50 lead-in fighter trainer jets.

Aircraft maker Korea Aerospace industries said earlier this week that it aims to deliver the first two of 12 FA-50s ordered by the Philippines by yearend.

Colonel Enrico Canaya, Air Force spokesman, said that aside from the two fighter jets, the PAF expects to recieve 20 other aircraft from suppliers this year.

These include two C-295 medium lift planes, eight combat-utility helicopters, eight AW-109 attack helicopters, and two CN-212i light lift planes, Canaya told reporters in Camp Aguinaldo Friday.

Developments at the Central Command come as the Mactan-Cebu International Airport (MCIA), where the 2nd Air Division is “co-located,” embarks on a project to upgrade facilities, including its runway.

Vivar said that aside from becoming a hub for modern military aircraft, Central Command is also being eyed as the home of the AFP’s “strategic command.”

“External defense, nandiyan na tayo… this will be the home of the strategic command, hopefully, and that will cater to the territorial defense of the country,” he said. (John Roson)

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Outgoing Armed Forces chief General Gregorio Pio Catapang said additional troops have been deployed to Batanes to help prevent intrusions, and suggested that a naval base be built there.

“The next na kailangan i-develop natin, maghanap tayo ng magandang naval base, o i-develop natin na naval base, dun sa Batanes,” Catapang said in an interview by state-run television PTV-4.

The military chief said he has already told the Navy about the plan, which should be implemented after building the naval base in Oyster Bay, Palawan.

The base being built in Oyster Bay is envisioned to guard against intrusions in the West Philippine Sea, where China is reclaiming and building structures on reefs. The planned facility in Batanes should guard against poachers, usually from Taiwan.

“I think this year they will ask for funding,” Catapang said.

Catapang made the remarks as he revealed that an additional platoon of Navy personnel have been sent to Batanes, where Filipino and Taiwanese coast guard members recently figured in standoffs.

“It’s the marching order of the President to also look into that area,” he said.

Navy chief Vice Admiral Jesus Milan, for his part, said forces in Batanes were increased “to secure mission-essential facilities being used for monitoring activities in the maritime domain.”

Navy personnel there are also tasked to plan for “improvements,” including the development of areas where boats can be docked, Millan told reporters by phone.

According to Millan, the Navy currently has no base in Batanes and sailors assigned there are only staying at offices of other government agencies.

Meanwhile, the Navy chief said more sailors were also deployed to Zambales and other “strategic areas” around the country to prevent the entry of poachers.

“Increasing ang poaching activities so we need to improve on our system and procedures… Ang problema lang, wala nga tayong pera to support the modernization of facilities,” he said. (John Roson)

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Members of the Philippine and Japanese navies will hold more trainings this month to beef up maritime awareness amid China’s continuing buildup in the region.

Colonel Edgard Arevalo, Philippine Navy spokesman, the trainings will be held when members of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) visit the country from June 22 to 26.

“The Philippine Navy and Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) are exploring areas of training and cooperation — among them humanitarian assistance and disaster response, maritime search and rescue, and maritime situational awareness… These are the activities lined up for the JMSDF visit,” he said.

Arevalo said a JMSDF aircraft will take part in the exercises but declined to reveal its type, as well as the area where the trainings will be held.

Japanese broadcaster NHK reported earlier that the JMSDF will send a P-3C Orion surveillance plane for the drills while the Philippine Navy is set to use a vessel and aircraft.

It said the exercises will be held in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

Staff-to-staff talks will also be held to strengthen and institutionalize information-sharing in a bid to “step-up maritime situational awareness,” Arevalo said.

“This navy-to-navy engagement envisions to share new tactics, techniques, and procedures as well as best practices to further maritime operations,” he added.

This month’s drills come amid tensions stemming from China’s reclamation activities in the West Philippine Sea.

They will be the third between the Philippine and Japanese navies in just two years.

The two navies held “passing exercises” in parts of the West Philippine Sea off Palawan and Zambales provinces — where China has been building up its presence — on September 25, 2014 and last May 12, respectively.

The upcoming drills also come a week after President Benigno Aquino III and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed on a transfer of defense equipment and stronger cooperation between the two countries’ militaries.

Japan and the Philippines are presently locked in a common maritime dispute with China in the East Sea and West Philippine Sea, respectively. (John Roson)

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The Philippine Air Force on Wednesday warned adventure-seekers not to push with plans of flying over areas where Pope Francis will be holding activities, saying various aircraft and guns are in place to stop them.

“We are employing different types of aircraft, from S-211 jets, helicopter gunships, regular helicopters, and even ground-based anti-aircraft guns for air cover,” Air Force spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Enrico Canaya said.

“Ang message namin, there maybe those who plan to overfly the areas. They should be informed that an air defense system will be in place, baka kasi mayroong mag-adventure diyan, mag-overfly,” he stressed.

The S-211 jets, currently the fastest in the PAF fleet with a maximum speed of 667 kilometers per hour, will be used to “intercept” aircraft that are monitored to be heading towards areas where Pope Francis will be holding activities, Canaya said.

They will be used in areas at least 10 nautical miles away from where the Pope is to prevent aircraft from approaching the 3-nautical mile “no-fly zone” designated by the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, he said.

Helicopters will be used within the “inner layer.”

Canaya said the PAF and Navy will use a total of 26 air assets for different operations, including air cover.

“As much as possible, we don’t want to use force,” he said, adding that even drones are not allowed no-fly zones.

Amid the massive and seemingly threatening deployment, Canaya assured that Air Force pilots and gunners will “exercise prudence” in dealing with those who enter no-fly zones.

“We are exercising prudence in our judgment… We will see to it that there is no collateral damage,” he said. (John Roson)

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The Armed Forces plans to step up security in the sea border with Malaysia through a new base being built in Zamboanga City.

“We need to secure our borders with Malaysia,” AFP chief Gen. Gregorio Catapang told reporters in a visit to the city over the weekend.

Catapang, who made his first visit to Zamboanga City as military chief, said the plan is particularly aimed at preventing transnational crimes.

“Global na ‘yung threats eh, global trafficking, global smuggling, and there is this problem of our fellow Filipinos being questioned, deported,” he said.

The maritime border with Malaysia is also notorious for kidnappings.

To address these, the base being built in Brgy. Rio Hondo will host some of the Navy’s ships and newly-acquired helicopters, Catapang said.

The base will also have a marina and host personnel from other security agencies like the police, he said.

“If you enter Zamboanga, you will have to pass through that forward operating base para ma-check kung saan ka ba galing, then we can patrol, and kung malalaki ‘yung bangkang ipapasok, we can challenge them,” Catapang said.

The facility is being built on a half-hectare plot inside “ground zero,” a term coined for the area destroyed by last September’s deadly attack by members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

It is expected to be finished early next year.

Aside from boosting territorial defense, the military wants the base to serve as an assurance to residents that the MNLF attack – popularly known as the Zamboanga Seige – will not happen again.

“Up to now the apprehension is there, but if they (residents) see that we are putting up the units, the base, we are making sure that it will never happen again,” Catapang said.

“If that assurance needs the deployment of more troops, the physical presence of troops, we are going to do that,” he added. (John Roson)

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A satellite image of Pag-Asa Island with the Rancudo Air Field. (Google Earth image)

A satellite image of Pag-Asa Island with the Rancudo Air Field. (Google Earth image)

The Philippines is set to start a project aimed at repairing its airstrip in the Kalayaan (Spratly) Island Group soon, despite China’s objections, military officials said Wednesday.

Funds are now available to repair eroded portions of the Rancudo Airfield on Pag-Asa (Thitu) Island, Air Force chief Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Delgado said.

“Nagkaroon lang ng mga hitches during the previous years, may time na kinulang ‘yung funds, but now may pondo na naman, we need to repair that,” Delgado said in a press briefing.

Portions of the 1.4-kilometer airstrip, which was built way back in the 1970s, have been “eroded by seawater,” Air Force spokesman Lt. Col. Enrico Canaya said.

Last December, the Department of National Defense showed reporters a presentation saying that P479.750 million had been alloted for the project on Pag-Asa under the Armed Forces Modernization Law of 1995, and the project was already undergoing bidding.

Maj. Gen. Edgar Fallorina, Air Force chief of staff, said a company has already won the bid for the project’s first stage, which will be overseen by the Navy and would involve “dredging.”

“That’s for the preparation alone [of] the island, so that construction materials can come in… Hopefully, it will be finished this year,” he said.

The Air Force will implement second stage, which is the repair of the airstrip itself, he said.

On Monday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying accused the Philippines of “illegally and forcefully” occupying territories in the Kalayaan Islands, which China calls Nansha.

Hua also demanded that the Philippines withdraw its facilities and personnel from the islands, as well as stop “provocations” like the airstrip project, despite Beijing’s continuing constructions.

Fallorina said the project will push through as the government had already given it the green light.

“It’s a project under and sanctioned by the Department of National Defense. So far it’s a go, no complaints, no problems,” he said. (John Roson)

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