AFP-NOLCOM marks PHL territories in ‘northern frontier’

At least 13 sovereign markers have been installed in important and strategic maritime waters in the northern part of the country as the Philippines assert and fortify its ownership of those territories, the military said on Tuesday.

Armed Forces of the Philippines Northern Luzon Command (AFP-NOLCOM) commander Lt. Gen. Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos made the disclosure during his visit to the detachment of the Navy in Itbayat, Batanes on Monday wherein he prodded the soldiers to keep up their maritime security operations in the country’s “northern frontier.”

The sovereign markers were installed in uninhabited islands located in Cagayan, Batanes and Babuyan Channel, which along with the important waters of Scarborough Shoal, Philippine Rise and the whole Batanes Strait, falls within the operational jurisdiction of the NOLCOM.

The installation of the markers, which clearly assert the country’s ownership of those waters, were reinforced the conduct of regular patrols in those areas.

“As the AFP’s stronghold in the North, the routine maritime patrols of the AFP that are regularly conducted in its three maritime areas were further intensified this year in order to ensure our maritime security,” Burgos, who is also the head of the Area Task Force-North (ATF-North), said.

“I commend all the efforts of our soldiers who selflessly perform their duties and responsibilities in upholding our sovereign rights and territorial integrity,” he added, before conveying his Father’s Day message to the members of the Itbayat Littoral Monitoring Detachment.

Itbayat Mayor Ronald V. Gutierrez, who welcomed Burgos during his visit, acknowledged that the frequent patrol operations of NOLCOM’s assets has prevented the presence of foreign vessels “in our maritime areas,” and appealed to the commander to regularly visit their island.

Gutierrez also asked the military’s help in demolishing the hazardous boulders and cliffs that were heavily impacted during the earthquake in 2019. Gutierrez said the boulders have hindered road access and have prevented completion of construction of their pier.

In return, the military’s blasting operations has been organized with two teams from the Naval Special Operations Unit 2, supported by the BRP Conrado Yap, Naval Intelligence Security Group, Northern Luzon and Marine Battalion Landing Team 10 already on their way to Itbayat.

At the headquarters of the Air Force’s 5th Fighter Wing in Basa Air Base, Pampanga, General Cirilito Sobejana assured the military would continue to beef up its air capability by continuing to equip the Air Force with modern assets and equipment.

“We will pursue the acquisition of more modern assets such as the multi-role fighters to beef-up our air defense capability. These shall boost the morale and welfare of our troops because after all, our personnel are our greatest and most valuable asset,” the chief of staff of the Armed Forces said.

“The experience that I have for the past 45 minutes up in the air on our Philippine Air Force’ FA-50PH made me feel the significance of our air assets in our campaign against the Abu Sayyaf Group, the Bangsamoro [Islamic] Freedom Fighters and other terrorists groups that we are fighting against,” he said.

Meanwhile, the United States through the officials of the Joint United States Military Assistance Group-Philippines (JUSMAG-P) delivered 183 million ($3.8 million) worth of weapons and equipment to the military.

According to a statement from the US Embassy in Manila, the delivery of the armaments at Clark in Pampanga on Monday, was made possible by both through a US grant assistance and counterpart funding from the Philippines.  Among the weapons that were delivered included nine M3P .50 caliber heavy machine guns, 10 mortar tubes and other equipment.

“The delivery is intended to enhance the AFP’s counterterrorism and maritime security capabilities,” US Embassy said.

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