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New Navy chief vows to defend West Philippine Sea

Jaime Laude - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Newly installed Philippine Navy chief Rear Admiral Caesar Taccad vowed yesterday to defend the country’s maritime domain from China’s aggressive moves in the West Philippine Sea.

During the change of command ceremony at the Philippine Navy headquarters in Manila, Taccad rallied the country’s sailors and Marines to vigorously continue performing their tasks amid the evolving maritime security challenges.

President Aquino led the turnover ceremony at the Navy headquarters in Manila as he appointed Taccad as new flag-officer-in-command, replacing Vice Admiral Jesus Millan who retired from the service.

“I will keep counting on each one of you as we stand together being the gallant protectors of the Philippine archipelago, our country, our home. Now I have this great privilege and opportunity to lead you whether you’re a sailor, a Marine or reservist or civilian of the Philippine Navy,” Taccad said

“We will continue to protect our seas and secure the future of our nation and its people. We shall continue to be a dependable naval force, prompt in response and sharp in action.”

While adopting this posture, Taccad, without mentioning the prevailing maritime row in the Spratlys, said the Navy would aim for a stable, productive and constructive relationship with other maritime stakeholders and partner navies to preserve peace in the Asia-Pacific region.

Asked on China’s aggression in the West Philippine Sea and in Spratlys archipelago, Taccad said that the Chinese have been in the region for a long time to guard what they think is their interest.

Better situation

He described the prevailing security situation in the disputed archipelago as much better compared with the past.

“It’s much heated before. I think we are in a better position now. We are communicating with China, and more or less not as threatened as before. You know what they are trying to do and we try to maintain more or less peaceful co-existence or settlement of what issue we have,” he said.

Taccad added he does not see any expansion from China.

“They have been there for a long time and they are guarding what they think is their interest in the South China Sea. No expansion is happening. They are just pursuing their interest.”

Taccad’s assessment, however, runs counter to what Magdalo party-list Rep. Ashley Acedillo bared yesterday.

President Aquino, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and Vice Admiral Caesar Taccad inspect the Navy’s newly acquired landing craft vessels yesterday. BOY SANTOS

Acedillo, who also attended the turnover rites, said that a Chinese coast guard ship is now permanently anchored near Ayungin Shoal, poised to take over the area.

Citing reports, he said at any given time, there is a Chinese Coast Guard ship anchored near the grounded Philippine Navy logistic ship, BRP Sierra Madre, manned by a contingent of Navy personnel.

“This is now a big problem, because once BRP Sierra Madre disintegrates and we leave the area, the Chinese can immediately take over,” Acedillo said.

A senior naval officer also said that China’s naval blockade is continually trying to block Western Command (Wescom)’s troop rotation and re-provisioning operations in the shoal.

Meanwhile, before hanging up his military uniform yesterday, Millan honored through a poem sailors and Marines deployed in the Kalayaan Island Group for their sacrifices and unselfish duties.

Mentioning each lonely outpost in the KIG, Millan said soldiers deployed on these far-flung outposts, despite being located in the middle of nowhere, have remained steadfast in performing their mandated tasks.

Navy hailed

On the other hand, President Aquino hailed the Navy for being a reliable partner in defending the country’s territory and protecting the people with their “courage, resourcefulness and resolve” amid challenges and adversities in the West Philippine Sea and the South China Sea as well as in disasters hitting the country. With Aurea Calica, Alexis Romero

ACEDILLO ACIRC NAVY PHILIPPINE PHILIPPINE NAVY PRESIDENT AQUINO QUOT SIERRA MADRE STRONG TACCAD WEST PHILIPPINE SEA
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