Monday, July 20, 2015

US Forces' surveillance mission in West PH Sea to bolster information sharing

Photo courtesy of US Pacific Fleet
U.S. Pacific Fleet Commander Admiral Scott Swift led the 7-hour maritime surveillance mission of the US forces in the West Philippine Sea on Saturday.

According to the US Pacific Fleet website, the mission was conducted to evaluate the full capacity of P-8A Poseidon aircraft. Part of the mission was to fulfill the US Pacific Fleet's commitment of monitoring and ensuring the security situation in the region.

Photo courtesy of US Pacific Fleet
Meanwhile, the Armed Forces of the Philippines said though the fleet is free to conduct surveillance in areas declared as part of international waters and airspace, AFP Chief Lt. Gen. Hernando Iiriberri was aware of the mission.

AFP Public Affairs Office Chief Lt. Col. Noel Detoyato added that the surveillance mission will bolster information sharing as the country faces maritime dispute with China on the West Philippine Sea.

"We have this information sharing on what they are going to observe".  said Lt. Col. Detoyato

Detoyato also added the US  forces' mission is America’s expression of support to the Philippines’ claims on the issue. AFP also believes the said mission will not hype the tension in the region.

Photo courtesy of SSg Amable Milay PAFPAO,AFP
Detoyato said that America also gives equal importance to its diplomatic relations with China.

Before the surveillance mission, US Pacific Commander Admiral Scott Swift visited the country to emphasize the alliance of the Philippines and America.

"He even emphasized during his call to the Chief of Staff that he even made sure that the Philippines is the first country that he visits to emphasize the US and Philippine relationship". said the AFP-PAO Chief

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Aquino administration gives AFP modernization highest fund allotment

The modernization program of the Armed Forces of the Philippines has existed as early as several administrations ago.

It started in 1995, under the administration of former president Fidel Ramos, with the enactment of republic act 7898 or the AFP Modernization Law.

From the targeted 331-billion peso budget for the armed forces, only 56 billion pesos were given in a 15-year period, or during the terms of former presidents Ramos, Joseph Estrada and Gloria Macapagal arroyo combined.

The huge lack was brought about by the economic crisis at the time.

The AFP was able to complete 91 projects, most of which centered on internal security, such as the procurement of rifles, radios, military vehicles, ambulance units and helmets. But no equipment was bought for external defense.

In 2010, President Benigno Aquino III allocated 31 billion pesos for the modernization program and equipment needed to protect our territory was then bought by the armed forces.

In 2012, Republic Act 10349 or the Revised AFP Modernization Program was enacted. The law aims to lengthen the 15-year modernization program until 2028.

AFP military chief of plans Major General Raul Del Rosario said the program was given more attention under the Aquino administration.

A total of 9.7 billion pesos worth of funds was allocated to the program in 2014.

  “We feel the president's unprecedented support for RA 10349. He really focused on the acquisition of equipment for territorial defense”. Said Raul Del Rosario, Chief of Plans, AFP

Among the crafts and equipment ready for acquisition by the Department of National Defense are 12 fighter aircraft and 8 combat utility helicopters. The AFP also expects to acquire 2 new frigates and long range patrol aircraft next year.

Despite this, the country's defense capability against external security threats remains weak.

  “We are still lacking. We need more equipment to defend the west Philippine Sea. These include long range patrol aircraft, surveillance radars and frigates”. Added Del Rosario

An expert on the law of the sea believes had the Philippines strengthened its defense capability before, we could have prevented the massive reclamation activities of china in the west Philippine sea.

 “We could have prevented the reclamation from the very beginning. We could have had a stronger position in the seas”. Said Prof. Jay Batongbacal, Director, UP Institute For Maritime Affairs Of The Law Of The Sea

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Philippine Air Force carries out flight demo of controversial helicopters

CAMP AGUINALDO, Quezon City--To prove that there is nothing anomalous in their deals, the Department of National Defense (DND) and the Philippine Air Force (PAF) had carried out flight demonstrations of their newly acquired helicopters.

One of PAF’s latest acquisitions, the refurbished UH-1 helicopters was used during the flight demonstration of the Philippine Air force with the media.

It is included in the controversial 1.2 billion peso deal of the Department of National Defense.

From Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City, chosen media personnel rode in the UH-1 and UH-1H choppers to go to San Mateo Rizal.

The news team first rode in the old UH-1H helicopter on the way to San Mateo; and then tried the refurbished UH-1 helicopter going back to the Camp Aguinaldo. The whole flight took them more than thirty minutes.

Through the flight demonstration, DND and PAF wanted to prove the refurbished UH-1 helicopters are not defective.

There were also allegations that the transaction of DND with the dealer of the helicopters, the US-based company Rice Aircraft Services Incorporated and Eagle Copters was anomalous.

This was denied by the DND.

  "There is no truth in everything she said. No one in the dnd officials is involved in the alleged commissions" said DND Under-Secretary Fernando Manalo, Chairman of DND-BAC.

From supposed 21 UH-1 helicopters to be delivered according to the contract, only seven helicopters were delivered and accepted by the Philippine Air Force.

Because of this, the DND partially terminated the contract with the said company in April because of the failure to deliver the 21 refurbished Huey helicopters on time.

Undersecretary Manalo said, rigid inspections and strict procedures were done before accepting delivered helicopters.

  "There is a checklist with 200 items which should be looked into first. It undergoes a tedious process before a helicopter is accepted" said Manalo.

The additional air assets will be utilized by the AFP in different missions such as combat operations, humanitarian assistance and disaster response, and not just limited to training operations.

This was the second time that the PAF and DND conducted flight demo of the newly acquired choppers.

The first demo was conducted last March in Villamor Airbase using 2 newly acquired refurbished Huey UH-1D, immediately after the controversy broke out to the media.

DND Secretary Voltair Gazmin himself rode the controversial chopper on the way back to his office to show the media his confidence to the newly acquired air assets .

AFP Chief Lt. Gen Iriberri defends acquisition of force protection equipment over missile system

Gen. Hernando Iriberri assumes office as the 46th Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff (
CAMP AGUINALDO, Quezon City --The newly installed Chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Lt. General Hernando Iriberri admitted the huge capability gap of Filipino soldiers. 

He said the increasing number of casualties among soldiers because of improvised explosive device used by enemies such as the rebels and terrorists is a pressing issue.   

 "It is really unfortunate to see a soldier in critical condition just because of an IED,  just because he has no body armor or helmet. I cannot give the details on how huge our capability gap is because these are classified information" said AFP Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Hernando Iriberri.

The general also said he has given a counter-proposal to the Department of National Defense (DND) that instead of acquiring a Shore-Based Missile System (SBMS); force protection equipment such as rifles, body and armor for soldiers must be purchased first. 

The first phase of the revised AFP modernization program from 2013 to 2018  includes the proposal acquiring Shore-Based Missile System (SBMS) or Anti-Aircraft Missiles (AAM) from Israel amounting to 6.5 billion pesos. 

But Lt. Gen. Iriberri said reports on scrapping the said project just to give way to the acquisition of individual force protection equipment are erroneous. 

He stressed, however, that he has requested the project to be included instead to the second part of the AFP Modernization Program from 2018 to 2022 and give priority to the procurement of individual equipment for soldiers battling in the field. 

  "And I also want to clarify that the budget with the amount of 6.5 billion for the re-prioritization will be used for the acquisition of the individual equipment;  these will be used by our ground troops, regardless of their situation, regardless of their mission" said AFP Chief Iriberri.

The general also said gaining commission is not the reason for the re-prioritization of the projects. 

He also reiterated that his request underwent required processes and was cleared by officials of the Department of National Defense and the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Philippine Air Force Modernization Program Shall Continue Under the Flight Plan 2028

PAMPANGA, Philippines — Trainer aircrafts, OV-10 broncos, Nomad N-22, Fokker F -27, C130 at C295 cargo aircrafts and combat utility helicopters.

These are just some of the assets of the Philippine Air Force flown during its 68th anniversary at Clark, Pampanga last Wednesday morning.

Part of the celebration is honoring the chosen officers of the PAF.

According to president Benigno Aquino, many projects under the modernization program of the administration were already realized. 

 “So advancing the modernization in AFP continues, in five years only we were able to complete 55 projects under the modernization program. We have surpassed the combined total of 45 projects completed by the past 3 administrations". Said the president.

A few of the anticipated new assets arriving this year are 2 units of CASA C-295 medium lift transports, 2 units of Bell 412 combat utility helicopters and 2 units of FA50 fighter jets bought from South Korea.
Photo from: KAI Facebook Page
  “In June, the first FA50 unit that we acquired successfully accomplished its maiden flight. These fighter jets will soon take off in our own airbase, and are expected to boost our capacity to protect our territory". President added.

FA-50PH's maiden flight took place on June 19 after the Philippines has signed a contract for 12 KAI FA-50 fighter aircraft in March last year. Korea Aerospace Industries Ltd. (KAI) said that they will do their best to deliver initial 2 aircraft by the end of this year.
Photo from: KAI Facebook Page
The president said that although this is his last visit in the anniversary of the air force, he assures that the modernization program of the government shall continue with the PAF flight plan 2028. 

  "We are pushing for PAF flight plan 2028 for the extensive transformation of your organization. I want to emphasize that this initiative covers three administrations. There are only 365 days left in my administration; it means if we want to see the success of this plan, we need to continue supporting the side of the straight path". Said the president.

In the said 14-year development plan of the Department of National Defense and Armed Forces of the Philippines, the government has laid out the initiatives and programs on the continuation of the reforms that administration has already started.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

PH-US Troops Conduct Military Exercises Near West Philippine Sea

ZAMBALES, Philippines- The Amphibious Assault is one of the highlights in the bilateral exercises between the Philippines and the U.S. in Zambales; the exercise is being done approximately 250 kilometers away from the disputed Panatag or Scarborough Shoal.

The northern beach in the Philippine Naval Base in Luzon spreads at a length of 2 kilometers, making it the perfect place to conduct the Amphibious Landing Exercise of the Balikatan; according to U.S. Exercise Deputy Director BGEN Christopher Mahoney.

"The complexity of this exercise is born out of the beauty of this training range. It’s practical to use this training range in order to get all our objectives"
He added

The exercises this year focuses on territorial defense scenario; wherein the joint US and Philippine task forces aim to take back the islands seized by the enemies.

When asked why the field training exercise is being conducted in Zambales near the West Philippine Sea, Marine Battalion Landing Team 7 Commanding Officer Lt. Col. Doroteo Jose Jalandoni said it does not aim to escalate the maritime dispute between the Philippines and China.

"We don't do exercises in areas that have places of contention. This is an exercise and exercise is testing the capability of both forces" said Col. Jalandoni.

The beach landing exercises aim to improve the inter-operability of military assets and personnel  of the AFP and the US Armed Forces, both at sea and on land.

Inter-operability refers to the alliance of two different forces to effectively accomplish a certain mission.

350 Filipino soldiers and 400 American soldiers participated in the “Boat Raid” training.

21 Amphibious Assault Vehicles plus a UH-1 Cobra, a UH-1 Huey and AV-8 Harriers were used as closed-air support in the amphibious assault exercise.

Though the country is lacking in modern equipment, Col. Jalandoni believes that training with the US Armed Forces will help strengthen the capability of the Philippine Armed Forces.

"This exercise is a good measure of looking at it that when it arrives, we are prepared already. He said

The Philippine Navy is set to acquire 2 brand new Strategic Sea lift Vessels (SSV) and 8 Amphibious Assault Vehicles (AAV); making this
amphibious assault exercise a perfect training for the future operators of the incoming assets.

See Also:
DND and PT PAL INDONESIA-Persero inked in the agreement to build 2 SSV for the PN
Samsung Techwin's Bid for the 8 Brand New AAV Project to be Decided Mid 2015

Monday, April 20, 2015

PH-US Balikatan 2015 aims Peace and Security in Asia Pacific Region

Photo from Exercise Balikatan FB Page
MANILA, Philippines- The Philippines-US Balikatan 2015 Military Exercises has formally opened; aiming to maintain security and peace in the Asia Pacific region.

The Balikatan 2015 is the largest Balikatan Exercise to be participated by 11,000 Filipino and American soldiers programmed until April 30, 2015.

According to AFP Chief Of Staff Gen. Gregorio Catapang Jr., the increase in the number of participants this year compared to the previous years does not aim to spread terror or provocative actions on the maritime dispute at West Philippine Sea.

Its primary aim is still to improve the capability and capacity of the Armed Forces of the Philippines; as part of the AFP modernization program and the Mutual Defense Treaty between the Philippines and the United States.

"I think the Americans would like a bigger exercise. We believe it will help a lot because the more troops given a chance to participate, the more useful to the Armed Forces of the Philippines."said the AFP Chief

According to Vice Admiral Alexander Lopez, Exercise Director of Balikatan 2015(AFP), the exercise is not limited to field trainings only.

There will be humanitarian and community projects through the 10 days of bilateral exercises apart from field trainings to be held in Panay and Palawan.

"The exercise also showcases 56 civil military operation activities such as engineering civic action projects with an estimated 10,000 indirect beneficiaries and a civil assistance and community health engagements." He added

US Ambassador Philip Goldberg expressed that through this bilateral exercises, current challenges being faced by the Asia Pacific region will be solved.

"It's about preparing to confront emerging challenges across the Asia Pacific Region. What we do in Balikatan is not aimed at any country or any group of countries." He said

He also added that the U.S., the Philippines, and other countries in Asia aim to maintain the freedom of aviation and navigation as well as the diplomacy in Asia Pacific region.

Also participating in the Balikatan Exercises are the Australian Defense Force and some representatives from Asia that are invited as international observers namely Brunei, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, South Korea, Singapore, Thailand, Timor Leste and Vietnam.