MANILA, -- The Philippine Navy on Wednesday reiterated that it will “defend and protect what is rightfully ours” during its 118th founding anniversary, which coincided with the commissioning of its biggest ship to date, the BRP Tarlac.
Vice Admiral Caesar Taccad, flag officer in command of the Philippine Navy, highlighted the “urgency of the threat against our maritime interests and possibly our territorial integrity,” saying “the enemy stands at our doorstep.”
"The need for our country to bring more focus to territorial defense is more pronounced than ever, a need which we have to answer to even while we are addressing our internal security problems our commander-in-chief once said, what is ours is ours,” he said.
"Sir, rest assured that your Navy will abide by its duty to defend and protect what is rightfully ours,” Taccad told President Benigno Aquino III, commander in chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), who was the guest of honor at the event.
The Philippines is embroiled in an ongoing territorial dispute with China, who claims almost the entire South China Sea, believed to have rich deposits of oil and gas. The Philippines refers to parts of the South China Sea as the West Philippine Sea.
Taccad also recognized the "unprecedented momentum" in the upgrade of the Navy's capability, citing the number of new vessels added to its inventory, including the BRP Tarlac, five landing craft heavy vessels, two Del Pilar-class frigates, five Agusta Westland AW109 helicopters, and three multi-purpose attack crafts.
"We stand proud because we are a far cry from the old, decrepit Navy that we once were. We are a Navy poised for modernization and our shared aspiration of a strong and credible Navy is almost at hand and this would not have been possible without your support," Taccad said.
More assets and platforms would be acquired within the year, Taccad said, because the Navy "cannot afford to slow down."
Aside from the BRP Tarlac, also commissioned during the anniversary celebration were three additional and newly-acquired Landing Craft Heavy vessels from Australia.
BRP Tarlac is the first of the two amphibious landing dock vessels of the Navy. It is the biggest with an overall length of 123 meters, width of 21 meters and payload capacity of 2,800 tons.
President Aquino meanwhile took a swipe against his predecessor, former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, for seemingly neglecting the Philippine Navy.
“Napakabigat ng atas sa inyong serbisyo pero tila napabayaan kayo ng sinundan nating gobyerno. Di natin kailangan maging unipormado para malaman ano ang kakulangan,” Aquino said.
Aquino trumpeted that under his administration, P60.14 billion was released for the modernization of the AFP.
The Philippine Navy to celebrate its 118th anniversary today aboard its newly commissioned BRP Tarlac. (PTV)