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PIA Press Release

Speech of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo during the 61st Anniversary of Philippine Air Force

Mactan Air Base, Lapu Lapu, Cebu City, July 2, 2008

Thank you very much, Secretary Teodoro, for your introduction. Commanding General of the Philippine Air Force General Cadungog, our host for today's celebration; the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines General Yano; commanding General of the Army General Ibrado; Vice Admiral Calunsag; our all other officials of the Armed Forces and the Air Force; Governor Garcia; Congressman Salimbangon; Congressman Gullas; and the other officials of the Province of Cebu; Secretary Remonde and Secretary Esperon and other appointees of our government; our awardees; men and women of the Air Force; ladies and gentlemen.

Congratulations to the Air Force on your anniversary!

I would like to start by expressing a personal tribute to the Air Force on the occasion of your anniversary. I have entrusted my life to the Air Force. The head of our Presidential Security Group Brigadier General Celedonio Boquiren is from the Air Force. His immediate predecessor and now head of the Intelligence Service of the AFP Brigadier General Romeo Prestoza is from he Air Force. The head of the Presidential Guard Battalion Lt. Colonel Ralph Mamawag is from the Air Force. Your Commanding General Lt. General Pedrito Cadungog was the head of my Presidential Air Lift Wing. Thank you very much Philippine Air Force for your care for me and my family.

Today, of course, we honor not just those who take care of me and my family but we honor those who have risked their own lives to save others. Our Gold Cross awardee won his award in battle, but most of the other awardees are those who have won their awards by saving other people's lives or incidentally Troop Commander, Gibtikas Pahinga.

Since General Cadungog was my was the head of my Presidential Air Lift Wing I was comfortable enough to ask him on a very short notice to transfer your anniversary celebration to Cebu, coming on the heels, as he has said, of the terrible tragedy left in he wake of the typhoon and the ferry accident. Because we want to focus attention on the heroism of the members of the Philippine Air Force who flies, search, rescue and relief mission out of these days and to pay our respects to the casualties of the calamity, most of whom are the Cebuano victims of the ferry accident.

Dahil balita na ang pagdating ng bagyo ilang oras bago ako umalis patungong Estados Unidos, noong gabing iyon bago ako umalis, pumunta muna ako sa Villamor Air Base, upang tiyaking handa ang Air Force tumugon sa pagsaklolo o pagtulong sa taong bayan. At pagbalik sa madaling araw unang pinuntahan muli ang Villamor Air Base para kumustahin ang mga nagkakarga ng gamit sa C-130 para dalhin sa Panay Island ang pinakanasalantang lugar. Twenty four hours nagtatrabaho ang Philippine Air Force dito sa kalamidad na ito. Maraming salamat sa inyong lahat.

When I was away, the Presidential planes were used as part of the assets and in fact they were used here in Cebu, in Northern Cebu, especially to help out in search, rescue and relief. The trip to the United States reaffirmed the strong ties between our two nations and advanced important issues with the US, our most important friend and strategic ally. We were able to meet with President Bush, the Speaker of the House, the Senate Majority leader, and other important officials to press for economic aid, food security and stronger military cooperation. We have strengthened military cooperation with the US to continuously implement the Philippine Defense Reform Plan, particularly the capability upgrade program. So, among other things, we expect more skills upgrading programs for our air men and other soldiers sponsored by the US, on top, of course, of the hard assets. For hard assets we are not just relying on the US; we are also relying on the fruits of the reforms of the Value-Added Tax, so that we can finance much of our own modernization. This is why we have been able to set aside billions of pesos for the purchase of new helicopters and not just reconditioned ones. And they will be bidded out soon.

A number of primary and basic trainer aircraft are also coming soon. These should prevent the Air Force from running out of planes and prevent pilots from running out of the Air Force. As for personnel in non-combat missions, PAF reservists, who count Secretary Teodoro among them, have more wings than the Air Force. So, we have a great force multiplier. They can fly planes for peace while PAF regulars press on with missions to end conflict. And because we are so appreciative of the work of the Air Force, the work of the Armed Forces and the work of all government workers, we have a 10% pay increase for all government employees starting this month including all AFP personnel.

With your better pay must come better means to do your work not only hard assets but operating expenses. Secretary Teodoro will make sure that your MOOE for petroleum, oil and lubricants and spare parts is always adequate. With all these to help you do your work even better, may I ask you, may I enjoin you, brave and hardworking men and women of the Philippine Air Force, as you pro-fly to provide lift, to deliver support, to revive hope, to ensure peace for a nation that is taking off and hoping to rise to the level of first world in 20 years,. I call on you surge on full power, fly safely and press on with your role as the all- embracing wings of our nation. (PIA-MMIO) [top]

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