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Navy chief asserts need to focus on territorial defense amid sea tensions

/ 05:40 PM June 01, 2016
Philippine Navy's 118th anniversary and commissioning ceremony of LD601 and 3 LCHs at Pier 13 in manila. EDWIN BACASMAS

Philippine Navy’s 118th anniversary and commissioning ceremony of LD601 and 3 LCHs at Pier 13 in manila. EDWIN BACASMAS

ABOARD BRP TARLAC—Amid rising tensions in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea), the flag-officer-in-command of the Philippine Navy acknowledged the need to focus on territorial defense.

“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,” Navy commander Vice Admiral Caesar Taccad said Wednesday at the Philippine Navy’s 118th anniversary here.

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“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,” he said without referring to China, the most aggressive claimant in the South China Sea.

READ: China using ‘coercive tactics’ in maritime claims: Pentagon

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The Philippines is one of the claimants of territories in the South China Sea, one of the world’s busiest shipping routes and an area rich in gas reserves.

Other claimants are Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam.

Tensions between China and rival claimants over sovereignty have risen since the latter embarked on massive reclamation projects in islands and reefs around the South China Sea.

“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 Philippine Navy held its anniversary ceremonies aboard the BRP Tarlac, their newest and largest ship to date. President Benigno Aquino III was guest of honor and speaker.

‘Far cry from the old, decrepit Navy’ 

Taccad also thanked Aquino for his support in the past six years.

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“The Navy saw an unprecedented momentum in the upgrade of our capability since the modernization program,” he said.

With the “outpouring support” of the administration, the Navy was able to acquire two frigates, five Agusta Westland choppers and three multi-purpose helicopters.

Taccad said the Navy today was “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 impossible without your support,” he told Aquino.

Prior to the anniversary rites, the Navy commissioned into service the BRP Tarlac and the three landing heavy craft from Australia—BRP Waray, BRP Iwak and BRP Agta. CDG/RAM

READ: Group of Seven sends strong message to China

Originally posted: 1:10 PM June 1st, 2016

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TAGS: Defense, Philippine Navy, South China Sea, Territory, West Philippine Sea
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