New Navy chief: 'We will protect our sovereignty'
MANILA (2ND UPDATE) — Rear Admiral Toribio Adaci, Jr. assumed Thursday as the new Philippine Navy Flag Officer In Command, vowing to protect the country's "sovereignty and territorial integrity at all times".
Until Adaci's ascent, Navy vice commander Rear Admiral Caesar Bernard Valencia served as the acting chief since Sept. 9.
Adaci is the first Navy chief to serve a fixed term of three years as set by Republic Act No. 11709. Prior to his new post, he was the commander of the Naval Forces Western Mindanao.
In his speech, Adaci said the Navy under his leadership "will adhere to and stand with" the pronouncement of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. during his first State of the Nation Address that he "will not preside over any process that will abandon even one square inch of the territory of the Philippines to any foreign power".
"In terms of international defense and security engagements, we will continue to strengthen our partnership with allies, partners, friends and other like-minded nations that are committed to maintaining a stable and peaceful Indo-Pacific Region," he said.
Adaci made the remarks a few days after Navy personnel stationed on Pag-asa Island (Thitu Island) in the Spratlys in the South China Sea figured in an incident with the Chinese Coast Guard over a Chinese rocket debris that was recovered from the waters there.
According to the local military unit in the area, the Chinese Coast Guard forcefully took the rocket fairing that was first retrieved by personnel of the Naval Station Emilio Liwanag. Beijing denied "interception and seizing" had taken place, saying the Philippine side returned the object after friendly consultation.
The Philippine foreign ministry has sent a note verbale to China for it to explain the Nov. 20 incident.
Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Bartolome Bacarro, who was the guest of honor during the change-of-command ceremony at the Philippine Navy headquarters in Manila, told reporters on the sidelines of the event that the AFP Western Command is also conducting an investigation into the supposed explosions heard near Pag-asa Island hours after the reported rocket debris seizure.
"We are looking into the details of the investigation. We have requested the defense attache of China to submit also sa atin (to us) how they see things, what happened doon sa area (in the area). Tuloy-tuloy ang coordination natin sa kanila (Our coordination with them continues)," Bacarro said.
A report from the Palawan Provincial Police released on Sunday said the "repetitive sounds" were believed to have come from artillery guns and weapons from Subi Reef, which is located near Pag-asa Island and which China reclaimed.
Adaci vowed that under his watch, he will continue the modernization of the Navy.
"The Philippine Navy is in a crucial point in its 124 years of existence and history. We are now past being a legacy Navy and in a context, past the COVID-19 pandemic. From this standpoint, it is only befitting to continue a trajectory as a modernizing naval defense force," he said.
"I give credit to my predecessors who have ushered the way and enabled us to be where we are today," he added.
Adaci said the organization will be intensifying "competence-building training" in hopes of making it more efficient.
"As a naval defense force, we have specific skills. It is necessary to build and continuously nurture the value-adding system that will boost fields of specialization, specific knowledge and skills, until the skills become second nature or until they have achieved mastery," he said.
"Continuity because we have gained headway already in our modernization program. For the Navy personnel, we have to focus on fields of specialization and competence-building. I would like to put emphasis during my watch the management of our real estate and development of our naval bases because this should complement the arrival of our ships," he further told reporters in an interview.
He went on, "We have already plans for the acquisition of corvettes, OPVs, aircraft for our Naval Air Wing, and even coastal batteries for our marines."
Adaci, who hails from Ifugao, is a member of the Philippine Military Academy “Makatao" Class of 1989.
Meanwhile, the AFP also announced the assumption on Wednesday of Maj. Gen. Arthur Cordura as its new Vice Chief of Staff.
He replaced Vice Admiral Rommel Anthony Reyes, the AFP Deputy Chief of Staff AFP, who held the post in acting capacity following the retirement of Lt. Gen Erickson Gloria in September.
Cordura is a member of the Philippine Military Academy “Bigkis Lahi” Class of 1990 and served in various staff and command functions in the Philippine Air Force.
“Your years of experience in the noble profession of arms, most notably as Vice Commander of the Philippine Air Force, has more than prepared you for this position," Bacarro said during the change-of-command ceremony at Camp Aguinaldo.
“I am fully confident that you will continue to display passionate leadership in this position that entails a greater magnitude of responsibility and will give you the distinction as the first VCSAFP to serve for up to three years,” he added.
- with report from Bianca Dava, ABS-CBN News
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