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Marcos rallies troops amid emerging threats

SPEECH TO MAYORS. President Marcos speaks to the Philippine Mayors Forum at Crowne Plaza Manila Galleria in Quezon City on Friday. Mr. Marcos called on the local chief executives to explore potential international partnerships and other strategies to improve the delivery of public service in their respective localities (story on A3). PCO Photo
Vince Lopez

Orders AFP leaders to secure, defend nation

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Friday called on the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to be ready to secure and defend the Philippines against emerging threats.

In a speech delivered during the mass oath-taking ceremony at the Ceremonial Hall of Malacañan Palace in Manila, Mr. Marcos asked the newly-promoted AFP generals and flag officers to make sure that the military would be more capable of addressing the challenges confronting the country.

“You must not only anticipate, but you must also be ready to adapt and respond to emerging national security and defense realities that exist in our country and in our region,” the President said.

“As the new leaders of our AFP, you are expected to help ensure that the Armed Forces will be more agile, flexible, and responsive to better address emerging issues confronting our nation. We must be ready. Our Armed Forces must be capable of securing and defending the archipelago from emerging threats,” he added.

Mr. Marcos issued the challenge as US and Philippine Defense chiefs said they would “increase the pace and scope” of their engagements, following China’s unlawful actions that led to two collisions in the West Philippine Sea.

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin III and Secretary Gilbert Teodoro discussed in a call the Chinese coast guard and militia vessels’ “dangerous and unlawful maneuvers” that caused collisions with Philippine resupply and Coast Guard ships, the Department of National Defense (DND) said.

Austin and Teodoro “reaffirmed that the Mutual Defense Treaty extends to both countries’ public vessels, aircraft, and armed forces—to include the Coast Guard—anywhere in the Pacific to include the South China Sea,” the DND said.

The pact states the two countries will come to each other’s defense in case their metropolitan areas or territories are attacked.

“Both secretaries committed to redouble efforts to strengthen bilateral coordination, interoperability, and support for the modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines,” the DND said.

The agency added that the two Defense chiefs “commended recent bilateral military cooperation, including the bilateral sail last month off the coast of Palawan, and committed to increase the pace and scope of US-Philippines engagements.”

Teodoro and Austin will meet in Jakarta, Indonesia, on the sidelines of the upcoming ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM)-Plus.

Manila said on Monday that Chinese vessels “intentionally hit” Philippine boats which were on a resupply mission for troops stationed at the BRP Sierra Madre on Ayungin Shoal on Oct. 22.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Mao Ning accused the Philippines of “continuing to spread false information.”

Manila’s longtime ally, Washington, has led a chorus of international criticism and backlash against China’s interference in the resupply mission.

“I want to be very clear. The United States defense commitment to the Philippines is ironclad,” US President Joe Biden said Wednesday.

“Any attack on Filipino aircraft, vessels or armed forces will invoke our Mutual Defense Treaty with the Philippines,” he added.

Beijing claims almost the entire South China Sea, including parts of the Philippine exclusive economic zone, and has ignored a 2016 international ruling that its assertion has no legal basis.

Ayungin Shoal is about 200 kilometers from Palawan, and more than 1,000 kilometers from China’s nearest major landmass, Hainan island.

Meanwhile, Kyodo News reported that the Japanese and Philippine governments are considering negotiations on a new bilateral treaty to boost security cooperation and facilitate joint drills amid China’s growing military activities in the Indo-Pacific region.

During their scheduled early November summit in the Philippines, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and President Marcos are expected to approve negotiations for a “reciprocal access agreement (RAA),” facilitating the presence of visiting forces, diplomatic sources said.

It would be Japan’s first RAA with a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the third following the agreements with Australia and Britain that took effect earlier this year.

Negotiators from both sides are set to delve into the intricacies of the treaty by the end of this year, aiming to sign it as early as next year, Kyodo News said.

At the summit, Messrs. Kishida and Marcos are expected to pledge to step up joint military exercises by the two nations, in a move that would further promote trilateral security cooperation also involving the United States.

In the face of China’s territorial claims in the East and South China seas, Japan and the Philippines aim to enhance deterrence through regular joint training exercises with the United States, the sources said.

In his speech Friday, the President acknowledged the “positive and encouraging” developments in the country’s internal security situation, but said much remains to be done.

Mr. Marcos urged the military officials to step up the AFP’s joint planning and operations to ensure interoperability across all its units and platforms.

He also emphasized the importance of greater collaboration with other government agencies and civil society groups to come up with “innovative, effective, and efficient” solutions to the challenges that stand in the way of achieving peace and unity.

“We must maintain our vigilance and guard against those actors – whatever nature or form they may take – who would threaten and jeopardize the peace we have striven and fought for all these many years,” Mr. Marcos said.

About 31 newly-promoted AFP generals and flag officers, including AFP chief of staff Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr., took their oath before the Commander-in-Chief.

Also on Friday, the Philippines announced that its missile frigates, BRP Jose Rizal (FF-150) and BRP Antonio Luna (FF-151) and a multi-purpose attack craft armed with a Spike-ER (extended range surface-to-surface) missile successfully fired their weapons during a gunnery exercise on Thursday.

In a statement, PF spokesperson Lt. Giovanni Badidles said these live-fire drills took place near Capones Island, San Antonio, Zambales as part of the “Exercise Pagbubuklod” being held from Oct. 23 to 27.

He added that live-fire exercises are essential for the sailors to build confidence, improve understanding, and fine-tune the proper execution of these lethal capabilities.

“The successful conduct of these major training activities significantly fulfills the overall objectives of ‘Exercise Pagbubuklod’ to optimize the utilization of assets and equipment, train personnel, and develop tactics and procedures ensuring success in operations,” Badidles said.

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