The commander of the Philippine Navy said the country needs to focus on territorial defense urgently, warning that the enemy “stands at our doorstep.”
“Our country is yet again faced with a similar situation that prompted the establishment of the Navy a 118 years ago. Today, the enemy stands at our doorstep and we can no longer over-exaggerate the urgency of the threat against our maritime interests and possibly our territorial integrity,” Vice Admiral Caesar Taccad, flag officer in command of the Philippine Navy, said in his speech during the Navy’s celebration of its anniversary on Wednesday.
Without mentioning China, the Navy chief made the statement amid rising tensions in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) where Beijing had built several artificial islands in areas claimed by the Philippines.
Relations between China and the Philippines have been frosty since Chinese vessels invaded Panatag Shoal and engaged the Philippine Navy in a standoff.
“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.’ Sir, rest assured that your Navy will abide by its duty to defend and protect what is rightfully ours,” Taccad said.
The Navy is optimistic that it will transform into a modern and formidable force with the acquisition of additional equipment soon.
Taccad said the Navy will “continue performing while transforming” with the continuing upgrade of its capabilities, strengthening of its personnel’s competencies and commitment, and with the support of lawmakers.
“More assets will be arriving within the year and the acquisition of more platforms is already in the pipeline,” he added.
“We cannot afford to slow down. We have already built a firm foundation marked by a culture of integrity and excellence, and we mean to continue sailing toward becoming the modern, formidable Navy that can make our country proud,” Taccad said.
He pointed out that the Navy has made an unprecedented momentum in the upgrade of its capability since the modernization program started.
Also, the Navy had built better facilities and naval bases that greatly boosted its naval defense posture.
Taccad also cited among others the addition to the Navy’s inventory of two frigates, BRP Gregorio del Pilar (PF15) and BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PF-16), five Agusta Westland AW-109 helicopters, three multi-purpose attack craft and recently, a landing dock vessel, the BRP Tarlac and five landing craft from Australia — BRP Waray, BRP Iwak, BRP Agta, BRP Ivatan and BRP Batak.
“Today 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,” he said.