Ochoa to PMA: Continue fight for peace

Executive Secretary Paquito N. Ochoa Jr. on Saturday urged government troops and Philippine Military Academy (PMA) cadets to continue fighting for peace as a fitting tribute to soldiers, two of whom were alumni of the country’s premier military institution, who died recently in an encounter in Basilan.

At the 113th Foundation Day of the PMA, Ochoa conveyed President Benigno Aquino III’s deepest condolences to the fallen soldiers and pledged to properly equip, arm and train government forces and future fighters so that their sacrifices in service to the country will not be in vain.

“I know many of you knew the two brave heroes who gave their lives in Basilan, and it is only right that we mourn those who have passed on,” Ochoa, said referring to 2nd Lt. Jose Delfin Keh and 1st Lt. Valdimir Maninang, who along with members of the Army’s Special Forces, died after a nine-hour clash with members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in Al-Barka, Basilan.

“We should also remember that there is no greater tribute to our brave heroes than by fighting for what they themselves fought for: to win the peace. Peace with principle, peace with honor, peace without sacrificing our sovereignty,” Ochoa said. “Our goal has always been peace because history has taught us no country has ever benefitted from long drawn-out internal conflicts.”

In the midst of this tragic event, however, the Executive Secretary said the real challenge remained. “[I]t is to honor their memory by being true to the values they lived and died for: courage, integrity and loyalty—the three words that all PMA cadets and alumni live by.”

Ochoa lauded the men and women in uniform who graduate from the military academy and those who enlist with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) for their sacrifices to ensure the security and safety of the people. Despite the risks, he added, many young Filipinos aspire to enter the PMA and serve the nation.

So far the PMA has produced over 7,000 officers, including 45 graduates from Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Turkey and the United States. This year alone, 16,000 individuals aspired to enter the academy, but over 6,000 were allowed to take the entrance exams. Only a thousand passed and have been deemed qualified for the physical examinations, and only 200 will be accepted to begin their cadetship in April 2012.

To strengthen its reputation as a premier military training institution, several projects and programs are in now in various stages of implementation to keep in step with the demands of the times, which require, among others, the academy to prepare its graduates for the tasks of the modern soldier, he said.

According to Ochoa, the dramatic change in character and conduct of warfare and the rise of terrorism as a serious global threat only underscore the need for officers and troops to develop a world view that will enable them comprehend the nuances of the law, statecraft, diplomacy and intelligence.

“Aside from addressing the issues concerning modern combat, the academy must also prepare its graduates for duties that do not involve warfare,” Ochoa said, like in disaster response operations and mitigation, which require an understanding of the adverse impact of the weather phenomena on logistics and planning involved in mass evacuation scenarios and rescue operations, mobilization and resource management, and public and community relations.

“In these initiatives you are assured of the support of your President, who recognizes the valuable role of the academy in the government’s efforts to ensure security, justice and peace in our country,” said Ochoa. “[T]his Administration is committed to implementing reforms to build the capability of our military as well as uplift the welfare of our men and women in uniform.”

One of these key initiatives is the proposed legislation to extend the AFP Modernization Act until 2025, which calls for the acquisition of Air Force, Navy and Army equipment and material, to boost the capability of the Armed Forces to repel threats within and outside the Philippines borders. It also authorizes the Department of National Defense and the AFP to sell, lease and forge joint venture agreements involving defense real properties, and to enter into public-private partnerships to raise the funding requirements for the military modernization program.

“In short, your government wants to put all of you—those who are now in our Armed Forces and those of you who will soon join them—in a position to successfully fulfill your duties and responsibilities to flag and country,” said Ochoa, who also chairs the Cabinet cluster on security, justice and peace. ###

Reference: Katherine G. Adraneda / Tel. No. 733-7472