New Navy chief vows to improve defense capability

By Caroline J. Howard, ANC

Posted at Jan 05 2011 12:27 PM | Updated as of Jan 07 2011 07:55 PM

MANILA, Philippines - New Navy Chief Alexander Pama vows to improve the capability of the Philippine Navy to secure the country's coastlines.

Speaking on ANC's "The Rundown" on Tuesday, Pama, who succeeded Rear Admiral Danilo Cortez, says he plans to implement training programs to enhance the competence of Navy personnel.

"We envision to build the capability and are trying to get modern equipment, but you need people who will be able to handle the new equipment. Comparatively our assets would not be at par with our neighbors. That's exactly why we have this program, to be able to make a Navy that's credible in performing its functions and duties."

While set on improving the Navy's skills, Pama, a member of Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Class '79, remains circumspect about the Navy's hardware needs.

Navy modernization

He says any upgrade will depend on proposed strategies for dealing with disasters and various threats facing the country.

"We have different kinds of threats. The bigger requires millions, we definitely can't afford it, yet we hope to afford it someday."

"We don't aspire for a blue water Navy, we just need assets to address the crying needs of security requirements" Pama says.

Among these needs are protecting fishermen, the country's marine and natural resources, conducting search and rescue operations, and watching the country's borders from intrusions.

The Navy is currently drawing up a list of priority acquisitions as it sets out to share resources with the rest of the country's armed forces.

During Navy turnover ceremonies on Tuesday, President Aquino expressed confidence in the competence of the Philippine Navy in securing the country's coastal waters, and assured government's full support in its operations.

The Chief Executive also acknowledged the Navy's valuable efforts in disaster relief operations.

Planned sale, lease of Navy headquarters

In the course of modernization, meantime, Pama reveals one scenario being explored is bringing back the Navy to Fort Bonifacio. This comes amid ongoing discussions to either sell or lease the Navy headquarters in Roxas Boulevard.

"That's part of the study being undertaken now. It's not just in the realm of the possibility but probability. It involves economic matters, legal matters, and we're in active consultation with other agencies of government."

He says some camps have also expressed interest in acquiring the Bonifacio Naval Station.

"We want to optimize the benefits the Navy, in part, and the Armed Forces, in general, generate from these activities," Pama says.