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Marcos, security officials eye stronger air force

MANILA, Philippines — President Marcos and security officials yesterday tackled programs aimed at strengthening the capabilities of the Philippine Air Force (PAF) amid simmering tensions with Beijing.

Military officials briefed Marcos on the recent activities, plans and projects of the PAF during the major services’ second quarter command conference at Villamor Air Base in Pasay.

“The President gave his guidance and instructions on some of the proposed programs to further strengthen the PAF as it defends the country’s sovereignty, territory and development,” Presidential Communications Office (PCO) Secretary Cheloy Garafil said in a text message.

In a statement, PAF public affairs chief Col. Ma. Consuelo Castillo said air force officials had provided Marcos insights and recommendations on further strengthening the country’s airpower capability to effectively guard and defend the nation from various emerging security challenges as well as enhance its disaster response capabilities.

“The Philippine Air Force expresses its deep appreciation to our commander-in-chief for his guidance and personal engagement with our leaders in this 2nd quarter command conference, and we look forward to his continuous support in our modernization efforts to become a truly capable, credible and sustainable Air Force that our nation needs and deserves,” Castillo said.

The PCO and the PAF did not provide specifics on Marcos’ directives or on the programs discussed during the meeting.

Among the officials present at the command conference were Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin, Special Assistant to the President Antonio Lagdameo Jr., Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr., PAF chief Lt. Gen. Stephen Parreño, Army chief Lt. Gen. Roy Galido, Navy chief Vice Admiral Toribio Adaci Jr. and Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Ronnie Gil Gavan.

The command conference was held days after the Philippines and China traded barbs over a supposed deal that seeks to ease tensions in the West Philippine Sea.

The Chinese embassy recently claimed that the AFP Western Command had agreed on a “new model” for managing the situation in Ayungin Shoal