PH military chief looks back at 2020 at 85th anniversary rite
MANILA, Philippines—The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) overcame many challenges on several fronts in 2020 but none was different than an invisible enemy, COVID-19.
AFP chief Gen. Gilbert Gapay on Monday (Dec. 21) took the chance to look back at 2020 during the AFP’s 85th anniversary.
“This year 2020, a year that we all hoped and envisioned to bring greater opportunities but twists of fate could not have been more drastic in the span of this single year,” he said in his speech.
Along with health care workers, the Philippine military saw itself on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic this year to help the fight against an unseen threat. Soldiers were deployed to quarantine facilities, testing centers, communities and checkpoints.
Military ships, trucks and cargo planes are in constant use to transport people and supplies for the battle against COVID-19.
But despite these, Gapay said the military continued “to push on and deliver more than what is expected” on internal security operations.
Military operations, he said, have “significantly degraded” the capabilities of the communist rebels and terrorist groups like the Abu Sayyaf, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and Dawlah Islamiyah.
The manpower, firepower and mass base support of these groups are now on a decline, he said.
“They are experiencing leadership vacuum and recruitment and extortion activities were likewise negated,” he said.
He believed that the government is on track to end insurgency before President Rodrigo Duterte steps down.
“We can now see light at the end of the tunnel. We are confident that these internal armed conflicts will be permanently put to rest before the President’s term ends in 2022,” Gapay said.
Even with the pandemic, the AFP chief said the military continued to establish “effective presence” in the West Philippine Sea, especially with the new military acquisitions this year.
The AFP also had the chance to address one of its “often-overlooked” health issues among active and retired soldiers — the post traumatic stress disorder.
This was after retired Cpl. Winston Ragos, who had suffered PTSD, was shot dead at a police quarantine checkpoint in April.
As in previous years, the military led disaster response efforts during calamities. These include the Taal volcano eruption and the string of typhoons that battered the country towards the end of 2020.
“We cannot deny the unique trial and challenge that we went through this year,” said Gapay. “But despite this we are still here now and remain tough, strong, united and together celebrating the armed forces’ 85th anniversary,” Gapay said.
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