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AFP: Centino visits Batanes, vows support for north troop

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NORTHERN PRIDE. Top military officers led by Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Andres Centino (in gray) stand underneath the flag at the Fishermen’s Shelter in Mavulis Island, the country’s northernmost island in Batanes province where a naval detachment is also located. They also a visited the naval detachment in Itbayat town and the headquarters of the 10th Marine Company in Basco, the provincial capital. The Chief of Staff and senior officers of the General Headquarters and the Northern Luzon Command later spent the night aboard BRP Tarlac (LD601). AFP Photo

Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief General Andres Centino has vowed to provide all possible support to troops manning and protecting the country’s northernmost frontier during his visit to Batanes this week.

Meeting with military personnel at the country’s northernmost province on Thursday, Centino appreciated the efforts of personnel stationed in the remote detachments and promised increased support from the General Headquarters.

In another development, the Philippines is looking at partnering with Japan through its ongoing Self-Reliant Defense Posture (SRDP) program.

This came after Japanese Ambassador Koshikawa Kazuhiko paid a courtesy call to Department of National Defense Secretary Gilberto C. Teodoro Jr. at the DND headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City on Thursday.

“Both officials explored the possibility of collaboration on the development of the Philippines’ SRDP through research and development on defense equipment, systems, and other related technologies, as well as expertise exchange,” DND spokesperson Arsenio Andolong said in a statement Friday.

Koshikawa and Teodoro also agreed to advance the security partnership between the two nations.

Centino told the forces in Batanes in a statement forwarded to reporters Friday: “I appreciate what you are doing for the country. It is because of you that we are able to monitor activities in this area and assert our sovereignty. I hope that you show the true heart of military personnel in this difficult deployment.”

The first area visited by the AFP chief, who also led a flag-raising ceremony at a sovereignty marker, was the “Fishermen’s Shelter” on Mavulis Island, the country’s northernmost island where a Philippine Naval detachment is also located.

He added: “I do these visits alongside our most senior staff to personally assess the morale and welfare of our personnel and the condition of our facilities in these remote locations.

“Rest assured we will continue to work towards further enabling you to perform your jobs better.”

This was followed by a visit to the naval detachment in Itbayat, the largest island in Batanes, and to the headquarters of the 10th Marine Company in Basco, also in the same province.

Meanwhile, Foreign Secretary Enrique Manalo and External Affairs Minister of India Dr. S. Jaishankar agreed during a meeting in New Delhi this week on strengthening the two countries’ defense cooperation during the 5th India-Philippines Joint Commission on Bilateral Cooperation in India.

Manalo said one of the proposals to boost both countries’ defense pact was India’s offer for a concessional line of credit to support the upgrading of the Philippines’ defense requirements.

The country’s top diplomat said this included the acquisition of naval assets, and expansion of training and joint exercises on maritime security and disaster response, among others.

Both also expressed keen interest in conducting official level interaction of both sides’ defense agencies and opening the resident Defense Attaché office in Manila.

Manalo and Jaishankar also acknowledged the growing importance of the maritime sector for both countries as they welcomed the bilateral Maritime Dialogue and the increased cooperation on hydrography.

Both leaders emphasized the utility of maritime domain awareness and in this context called for early operationalization of the Standard Operating Procedure for the White Shipping Agreement between the Indian Navy and the Philippines Coast Guard.

They are also keen on signing the memorandum of understanding on Enhanced Maritime Cooperation between the Indian Coast Guard and PCG.

The two officials also underlined the need for a peaceful settlement of disputes and for adherence to international law, especially the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the 2016 Arbitral Award on the South China Sea given to the Philippines.

Manalo was in India from June 27 to 30. The bilateral meeting was held on June 29 in New Delhi.

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