DND orders review of safety measures after gov’t arsenal blast in Bataan

Robie de Guzman   •   May 27, 2021   •   229

MANILA, Philippines – Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has ordered a review of the safety measures being implemented at the Government Arsenal (GA) in Limay, Bataan following an explosion that killed two personnel and injured two others.

“The SND (Secretary of National Defense) has directed the GA conduct a thorough review of the safety and protective measures implemented in the manufacturing facilities to ensure that a similar incident will be avoided in the future,” DND Spokesperson Arsenio Andolong said in a statement on Thursday.

The blast at the facility on Wednesday morning was said to have occurred during the preparation of the priming composition for caliber .45 bullets at the mixing facility of the GA’s Explosive Division.

The incident resulted in the deaths of two GA personnel who were on duty, with two others sustaining minor injuries.

Investigation into the incident is underway, according to the GA management.

Andolong said Lorenzana also conveyed his condolences to the affected families of the victims of the explosion.

“The GA shall also ensure that appropriate assistance and attention are extended to the families of the personnel who died in the line of duty,” Andolong said.

US offers support to Philippines after C-130 plane crash in Sulu

Robie de Guzman   •   July 5, 2021

The United States of America (USA) has extended its condolences to the Philippines after a C-130 military plane with 96 people on board crashed in Sulu on Sunday.

“On behalf of the United States, I offer our deep condolences to the people of the Philippines regarding the tragic plane crash in which several dozen service members were killed,” US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said in a statement.

“Our thoughts are with those who were injured and the families of those who were lost,” he added.

Sullivan also offered support to the Philippines in its disaster response effort.

“We stand shoulder to shoulder with our Philippine allies at this difficult time and are ready to provide all appropriate support to the Philippines’ response effort,” he said.

A Philippine Air Force C-130 plane, with tail number 5125, crashed around 11:30 a.m. on Sunday.

Initial investigation showed that the plane took off from Lumbia Airport in Cagayan de Oro City and was about to land in Jolo port in Sulu when it crashed. The plane was said to have missed the runway while trying to land.

As of Monday, the number of military personnel who died from the fiery crash climbed to 47, while 49 were injured.

Of those injured, 32 were evacuated to Zamboanga City while 18 are being treated at Kuta Heneral Teodulfo Bautista Station Hospital and 11th Infantry Division Hospital.

Three civilians on the ground were also killed and four others were hurt.

The military said all passengers, pilots, and crew were already retrieved.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenza has ordered a full investigation into the incident.

Lorenzana on allegations that AFP procures, uses defective equipment: ‘Baseless and disrespectful’

Maris Federez   •   July 4, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has called out those who have spread speculations following the C-130 plane crash in Patikul, Sulu before noon on Sunday.

“With the investigations of the past mishaps still ongoing, such speculations are as of yet baseless and disrespectful to the affected men and women of the Philippine Air Force, AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) and their families,” Lorenzana said.

The defense chief further said that the department as well as the AFP are using all means in conducting search and rescue operations in the crash site.

“We are currently focusing our attention on the rescue of the survivors of the C-130 crash and all available resources of the AFP are being utilized for the ongoing search and retrieval operations,” he said.

Lorenzana also called on the public to refrain from spreading highly speculative statements about the unfortunate incident.

Meanwhile, Joint Task Force Sulu commander MGen William Gonzales said that the Philippine Army is hopeful that their search and rescue operations will yield more survivors.

“We remain to be hopeful that we could find more survivors. Our search and rescue (operation) is still ongoing with 17 personnel unaccounted. These individuals were supposed to report to their battalions today. They were supposed to join us in our fight against terrorism,” Gonzales said.

“This is a sad day but we have to remain hopeful. We enjoin the nation to pray for those who are injured and those who have perished in this tragedy,” he added. —/mbmf

DND to improve bill seeking to reform uniformed personnel pension system

Robie de Guzman   •   June 21, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of National Defense (DND) on Monday said it will conduct a study and further deliberations to fine-tune the proposed measure seeking to reform the pension system for the military and uniformed personnel (MUP).

In a statement, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the current MUP pension system being subsidized by the government will become “unsustainable in the near future as it will become a huge burden to our taxpayers.”

“It is time to revisit the pension system with the objective of generating and maintaining a self-sustaining fund that would totally or partially unburden the government financially,” Lorenzana said.

“A careful study of our fiscal situation, gathering of suggestions from concerned stakeholders especially in our Armed Forces, and further deliberations will be undertaken and considered to fine-tune the proposed bill,” he added.

The Defense chief said that looking after the welfare of Filipino soldiers is one of the DND’s key mandates, and that these include ensuring that they receive the appropriate retirement benefits that are due them for their years of honorable and dedicated service.

“Sinisiguro namin na pangunahin sa ating prayoridad sa ating pakikipag-usap sa mga mambabatas ay ang kapakanan ng ating mga retirees,” Lorenzana said.

The proposed MUP pension reform bill is still pending in Congress.

The House ad hoc committee on military and uniformed personnel pension system recently approved the amended substitute bill proposing reforms for the said pension system.

The proposed measure seeks to remove the automatic indexation system that pegs the amount of pension received by retirees to the current salaries of active personnel.

The bill also includes a provision of cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) to ensure that monthly pensions remain on track with changes in prices and the adjustment of pensionable age to 60 years old.

The measure likewise proposes to provide higher risk insurance coverage for wounded, injured, and killed in action (on top of legislated benefits), optional retirement after 20 years but eligible only for non-pension benefits; pension eligibility begins at 60, among others.

House panel chair Albay Rep. Joey Salceda earlier warned that the MUP pension system could face an “existential threat” unless reforms are implemented due to unfunded reserve deficit amounting to P9.6 trillion.

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