We can choose not to get the Sinovac shot—AFP

We can choose not to get the Sinovac shot—AFP

MANILA — As the Sinovac coronavirus vaccines are in transit and due to arrive Sunday, 28 February, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) are having second thoughts or a change of heart, perhaps, as regards the vaccine they want jabbed on their shoulders. They say they can choose not to get the Sinovac shots allocated for them. But the downside is they will have to pay for whatever they prefer.

“Our soldiers can choose a different vaccine brand,” AFP spokesperson MGen. Edgard Arevalo said in Filipino during a briefing aired on state-run People’s Television. “But since these are not the vaccines allotted for the AFP, they will need to pay for the vaccine brand that they will get.”

Although it is unclear how the armed forces can procure coronavirus vaccines from drug makers of their choice as they mostly are granted emergency use authorizations by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and are not yet sold in the market. They need product registration certificates also from the FDA before they can be sold.

Arevalo did not explain either how the troops who prefer a different brand would pay for vaccines, but only says this is a “concept” available to them.

“If they really want to opt for another brand apart from the effective vaccine that we have allocated for our soldiers, then they can exercise that option,” he says partly in Filipino.

100,000 doses of the 600,000 Chinese-made coronavirus vaccines, set to arrive today, are earmarked for military personnel. The AFP targets 100 personnel a day in all of 47 vaccination centers located across the country.

“We give our soldiers protective equipment during battle because they will fight a fierce enemy. We cannot allow it to be optional if they want to wear protective equipment or not,” he said in Filipino. (JSM/JuanManila)


Featured image: Military chief Gen. Cirilito Sobejana during a visit in the Western Mindanao Command at Camp Navarro in Calarian, Zamboanga City, 19 Feb. 2021. (Photo credit: Interaksyon)

₱2.85-B released for FY 2018 Pension Differential of Retired MUPs

₱2.85-B released for FY 2018 Pension Differential | DBM Secretary Wendel Avisado | Juan Manila

 

MANILA — A total of 2.85 billion has been released by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to several line agencies to cover the one month equivalent of the 2018 pension differential of retired military and uniformed personnel (MUP).

According to budget and management secretary Wendel Avisado, the initial release will benefit retired military personnel of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) as well as retired uniformed personnel of the Philippine National Police (PNP), Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP), Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP), Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and National Mapping and Resource Information Authority (NMRIA).

The estimated one month equivalent of the 2018 Pension Differential released to the agencies is allocated as follows:

DEPARTMENT/AGENCY
AMOUNT (in thousand pesos)
Department of National Defense
Armed Forces of the Philippines 1,516,520
Department of the Interior and Local Government
Philippine National Police 1,207,222
Bureau of Fire Protection 91,669
Bureau of Jail Management and Penology 5,739
Department of Transportation
Philippine Coast Guard 28,004 28,004
Department of Environment and Natural Resources
National Mapping and Resource Information Authority 612
Grand Total 2,849,766

“The total requirement to cover the 2018 pension differential of retired MUPs amounts to ₱34.20 billion. This leaves a balance of ₱31.35 billion which is yet to be released subject to the availability of funds and in compliance with applicable rules and regulations,” Avisado clarifies.

“Rest assured that the Department will immediately evaluate and process all special budget requests after satisfying the requirements for the current regular pension and pension arrears as validated by the Commission on Audit,” he says.

It may be recalled that the Pension and Gratuity Fund (PGF) was significantly reduced to ₱152.9 billion from ₱172.9 billion when the General Appropriations Act was passed, affecting the release of the 2018 pension differential of retired MUPs.

“Hence, to ensure the continuous and up-to-date payment of pension, the DBM will continue to prioritize the release of current/regular pension requirements,” Avisado says.

As a final word, the budget chief said that the DBM is committed to fulfilling its mandate of promoting the efficient and effective management of the national budget to support its budget priorities while also ensuring that the needs of the Filipino people, especially of all military and uniformed personnel, are met. (JSM/JuanManila)

Lt. Gen. Sobejana to Filipinos: The military serves and protects, not threatens

AFP COS Lt. Gen. Ciirilito Sobejana

MANILA — Following claims of a fisherman who was harassed by the Chinese Coast Guard that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) wants him to “shut up” and stop airing his complaints against China, AFP chief-of-staff Lieutenant General Cirilito Sobejana underscored the fact that the military is instituted to secure the country and serve its people, and not threaten anyone.

“The reason for our existence is serving the people and securing the land, not threatening among our constituents,” Sobejana pointed out.

Paano kami magiging effective public servant if we threaten them unless they are identified as enemies of the state,” he added.

Critics smarting from alleged harassment from the military in the past are urging the fisherman who was reportedly threatened by Chinese vessels last week to continue voicing out his claims that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is intimidating him to keep quiet about the matter.

According to fisherman Larry Hugo, following his revelation about the threats he experienced from the Chinese vessels that blocked him from entering a sandbar near Kalayaan island, several men had been trying to prevent him from airing his complaints.

Hugo lamented that aside from being threatened by the Chinese Coast Guard, Philippine forces were also preventing him from speaking out.

Tiyak ko po, magagalit na naman ‘yan sila sa akin. Kasi binabawalan nila ako magsalita, ay hindi rin ako makapigil minasn. Nagagalit na rin ako minsan sa kanila, na may takot din na kahit papaano,” the lackless fisherman enthused.

However, Sobejana’s assurance that the military is firm in its mandated to secure the country and not threaten people, was not made in reply to Hugo’s claims but was in fact in connection to the possible lawsuit that National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) spokesperson Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade plans to file against a reporter.

Still, the AFP chief-of-staff said that whatever Parlade says as spokesperson of NTF-ELCAC also reflects the stand of the armed forces as Parlade cannot be denied as an officer of the military.

“We will discuss this matter together. He is part of the armed forces pero for now, na-designate siya as spokesperson, reflective pa rin sa organization. That’s why we need to discuss all these things para ma-thresh out natin lahat,” Sobejana said.

The issue stemmed from a Facebook post of Parlade accusing Inquirer.net journalist Tech Torres-Tupas of being a propagandist when the latter featured a story involving a petition in the Supreme Court that was filed by an Aeta tribe against the military for allegedly torturing them.

In the said post, Parlade denied the incident and threatened to charge the journalist in court for supporting the terrorists by spreading false information. 


Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana distinctly salutes with his left hand to render respect, because of severe injuries to his right-hand from the January 1995 encounter with the ASG in Basilan, where he earned his Medal of Valor. Sobejana was appointed the 55th Chief of Staff of the AFP by President Rodrigo Duterte. Photo courtesy of the Philippine Army

Chinese coast guard vessel harassed fisher, claims “AFP wants me to shut up”

Fisher claims harassed by China vessel

Critics smarting from alleged harassment from the military in the past are urging the fisherman who was reportedly threatened by Chinese vessels last week to continue voicing out his claims that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is intimidating him to keep quiet about the matter.

According to fisherman Larry Hugo, following his revelation about the threats he experienced from the Chinese vessels that blocked him from entering a sandbar near Kalayaan island, several men had been trying to prevent him from airing his complaints.

Hugo lamented that aside from being threatened by the Chinese Coast Guard, Philippine forces were also preventing him from speaking out.

Tiyak ko po, magagalit na naman ‘yan sila sa akin. Kasi binabawalan nila ako magsalita, ay hindi rin ako makapigil minsan. Nagagalit na rin ako minsan sa kanila, na may takot din na kahit papaano,” the lackless fisherman enthused.

Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian, meanwhile, denied Hugo’s claims, saying “there are always fake news spreading in a society.”

Just like a few days ago, there was fake news about China harassing the fishermen. There was no such thing,” Huang stated.

In response, Hugo maintained the credibility of his videos and accused the Chinese Embassy of being blind to the truth.

Bulag sila sa mga picture na pinadala ko saka video. Pakiparating na lang doon sa nagsasabi niyan na bulag sila sa katotohanan. Papaanong nagkaroon ng barko at mga ano diyan,” he said.

To prove the truth in his claims, Hugo also said that the Chinese vessel he saw bore the number 5103.

Reports of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative in March 2020 show that the Chinese Coast Guard vessel numbered 5103 is a Shuwu-class boat that was involved in the standoff at Scarborough Shoal in 2012.

On Wednesday, Hugo said he saw the Philippine Navy patrol near Pag-Asa Island in Palawan, where 14 vessels of the Chinese Coast Guard were monitoring the area. 

Nag-patrol iyong Philippine Navy natin kasi siguro nga nahihiya na rin sila na ganyan nakabalita na hindi sila nagpa-patrol. Nag-pull out po iyong 11 na barko, tatlo po iyong natira,” he said.

The fisherman also said that state forces cut off the signal in the area to prevent fishermen from sharing their complaints. This was, however, denied by the AFP Western Command.

Ang atin pong (AFP) ay ginagalang po iyong karapatan na siya ay ano, ang bawat Pilipino ay magpahayag ng freedom of speech,” Colonel Stephen Penetrante of the AFP Western Command stressed.

Ginagalang ho iyan ng ating mga kasundaluhan. Alam po nila ‘yan,” Penetrante added.

The AFP Western Command also denied that it is cutting the cellphone signal in Pag-Asa Island to silence fishermen.

Ang personnel po natin na naka-assign diyan sa island ay wala pong kakayahan o capability na putulin upang i-distrupt ang communication, cellphone signal diyan,” he said.


Featured image: Chinese Coast Guard vessel seen within the vicinity of Scarborough Shoal.