PROTECTING THE NATION. Philippine Army (PA) personnel operate the M113A2 armored mortar carriers which are now among the key assets of the newly reactivated 1st Tank Battalion of the Armor Division in this undated photo. The PA on Friday (Dec. 16, 2022) said its ongoing modernization efforts are allowing its units to help the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in fulfilling its mandate of protecting the nation and the people. (Photo courtesy of the Philippine Army)

MANILA – The Philippine Army's (PA) ongoing modernization efforts are allowing its units to help the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in fulfilling its mandate of protecting the nation and the people including in safeguarding the country's sovereignty.

"The PA is also continuously modernizing its defense assets and materiel under the second horizon of the Revised AFP Modernization Program. For this year, the organization deployed game-changer assets such as 12 units of 155mm self-propelled howitzers; 15 units of M-113A2 armored mortar carriers; two units of vehicle-mounted mine detectors; two units of armor vehicle launch bridge, unmanned aerial systems, combat radios, and thermal imagers. These new assets will boost the capabilities of ground units as the Army shifts from internal security to territorial defense operations," PA commander Lt. Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. said in a statement Friday.

These efforts highlight the PA's long-term transformation roadmap, he added.

"Moreover, the command installed 234 very small aperture terminals in remote patrol bases to provide connectivity to troops and outlying communities. To deal with emerging threats, the command activated units such as the 10th Field Artillery Battalion (SP-155), cyber battalion, five installation management battalions, and three infantry battalions. It also reactivated the 1st Tank Battalion which will serve as the mother unit of existing and upcoming tank assets of the PA," he added.

This year, the PA commenced the Army Transformation Roadmap’s third and final base camp wherein it aims to achieve its full potential as a world-class land force by 2028.

Brawner said the PA, with the help of its partners and stakeholders, recently conducted a "strategy refresh" with the end view of becoming a cross-domain capable and multi-mission ready ground force by the year 2040.

"The PA honors the hard work, sacrifice, and selfless service of soldiers in fulfillment of their oath to serve the people and secure the land," he added.

Brawner also assured the public that the PA, the largest and oldest AFP major service, will sustain hard-earned peace in communities as it continues to safeguard the nation's sovereignty.

This new vision is anchored on the PA’s organizational and capability development plans, the AFP modernization initiatives, and the Philippine Development Plan "Ambisyon Natin 2040."

Brawner, meanwhile, said stakeholders are also playing a key role in modernizing and equipping the Army.

He cited for instance the two significant donations received by the Army Aviation Regiment this year -- a Bolkow helicopter from a German company and a Short Sherpa cargo plane from a local corporate donor.

"On the aspect of training, various PA training institutions offered individual and unit trainings to level up soldiers' skills and unit capabilities. The growing number of the Philippine Army's engagements with foreign partners is also a testament to the organization's stature as a sought-after exercise partner. To note, the PA participated in this year's US Army Pacific-led Joint Pacific Multinational Readiness Center Exercise in Hawaii, USA and Exercise Carabaroo with the Australian Army in Darwin, Australia," Brawner said.

He also added the PA headquarters also ensured that much-needed resources are pushed down to all ground units to strengthen their mission accomplishments.

These accomplishments enabled the Army's operating troops, who are part of the joint force, to score key victories against the communist insurgents and local terrorist groups.

"Army troops engaged state enemies in four decisive encounters, 15 major encounters, and 96 minor encounters, resulting in the neutralization of 1,407 communist and local terrorists as well as the capture of 1,484 enemy firearms from January 2022 to December 2022," the PA chief said.

He added the irreversible defeat of communist insurgents is highlighted by the neutralization of their key leaders such as Benito and Wilma Tiamzon in Catbalogan City, Samar in August.

"It is worth noting that the 'whole of nation approach' has bolstered the Army troops’ campaign to end the festering communist insurgency, paving way for the dismantling of guerrilla fronts and the surrender and return to mainstream society of 2,011 rebels during the year," Brawner said.

AFP to showcase modern assets on 87th anniversary

The military would showcase newly-acquired equipment and other platforms in an anniversary program on Monday, ahead of its 87th founding anniversary on Dec. 21.

"The AFP will hold an anniversary program to celebrate its 87th anniversary on December 19 at Lapu-Lapu Grandstand, Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City. With the theme, 'AFP @87: Kaisa ng Buong Sabayanan Tungo sa Mapayapa, Matatag at Maunlad na Pilipinas,' the AFP aims to showcase our transformation and advancement as a military organization through the display of these assets," AFP spokesperson Col. Medel Aguilar said Thursday night.

In preparation for the event, rehearsals are being undertaken which include a series of fly-bys of air assets over Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City and nearby areas.

 Movements of ground assets are also expected as they will be part of the static display and parade and review inside the camp, he added.  

"Everyone is invited to join us on this momentous occasion. The anniversary program can be viewed on Monday at 2 p.m. on the RTVM Facebook Page," Aguilar said.

Fallen soldiers honored

On Friday, AFP chief-of-staff Lt. Gen. Bartolome Vicente Bacarro on Friday led a wreath-laying ceremony to honor the soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the Libingan ng Mga Bayani in Taguig City and all major military camps nationwide.

At the AFP general headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City, the ceremony was headed by AFP vice chief-of-staff Maj. Gen. Arthur Cordura.

In his speech, Bacarro recalled the stories of every AFP soldier's struggle and triumph. 

He cited past wars and major battles, including the Zamboanga siege and the battle for Marawi, where Filipino soldiers proved their bravery. 

"This annual wreath-laying demonstrates our commitment to honoring the departed troops' dedication, perseverance, and valuable services,"  Bacarro said. 

"Let us render our snappiest salute to our heroes for their unrivaled sacrifices for the country. They have given us the gift of peace and freedom borne out of their sacrifices; may we never forget the names and deeds of our heroes, whom we honor today," he added. (PNA)