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Doing away with the customary ceremonial flyby of air assets and fighting capability display of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Major Services, this year's 81st Founding Anniversary celebration of the AFP held today, December 21, 2016, at Camp General Emilio Aguinaldo (CGEA), Quezon City was made simple as it opted to highlight its ground assets on humanitarian assistance and disaster response (HADR).

Apart from displaying the military's capability, guests and spectators of the anniversary celebration were amused by the colorful parade of various AFP units.

This is the first time for President Rodrigo Roa Duterte to grace this momentous occasion as its Commander-in-Chief since he assumed presidency in July 2016. Prior to the program proper, the President arrived at CGEA aboard the presidential chopper. Upon his arrival, he was given a 21-gun canon salute. Immediately after, the cadets from the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) accorded him with arrival honors. He was then received by Defense Secretary Delfin N Lorenzana together with the AFP Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General Eduardo M Año AFP.

With this year's theme, "Conquering Challenges, Harnessing Change," the AFP is working hard to become a more credible and professional Armed Forces responsive to national security and development.

Lt Gen Año took the opportunity to report the status of Internal Peace and Security Plan “Bayanihan”, the country’s counterinsurgency campaign. On the country’s internal security operation, he encouraged the troops to maintain their engagements with their counterparts to attain regional peace and security. He also ensured that the AFP will continue to support the Philippine National Police and other law enforcement agencies in its campaign on anti-illegal drugs and criminality. In fact, the AFP has provided rehabilitation centers nationwide to augment the government’s rehab units. Moreover, Lt Gen Año has given the AFP’s full commitment to enhance its operational readiness on HADR, in cooperation with other government agencies. Lastly, he thanked President Duterte for boosting the morale and welfare of the uniformed personnel by his latest pronouncements, as well as, for providing additional medical equipment to the AFP Medical Center.

After the remarks, the Commander-in-Chief handed out the awards to outstanding military personnel and civilian employees.

The Philippine Air Force is truly proud to have two (2) of its personnel in the list of the AFP awardees, namely:

Major Mark Lester T Gannaban PAF of the 205th Tactical Helicopter Wing — Bronze Cross Medal, for risking his life as a pilot when he responded to the aerial forest fire at Mt. Apo

Technical Sergeant Adriano L Reginales Jr PAF of the 15th Strike Wing — AFP Enlisted Personnel of the year.

Other awardees were:

Lieutenant Junior Grade Reginald Balidoc — Distinguished Conduct Star, for his “conspicuous courage and gallantry in the face of an enemy” when he fought against members of the Maute Group in Butig, Lanao del Sur on Feb 25

First Lieutenant Jay Maravilla PA — Gold Cross Medal, for his “gallantry in action” during an encounter with the Abu Sayyaf in Patikul, Sulu on August 26

Corporal Felipe Barbadillo PN (M) — for his role in neutralizing the armed group of Jaafar Sabiwang Maguid, a local terrorist group believed to be linked with the ISISin Barangay Butril Palimbang in Sultan Kudarat in November 2015

Colonel Nestor Bautista PN (Ret) — Outstanding Achievement Medal, for his “extraordinary and distinguished service” that he rendered as host to the Philippine-Australia Defense Cooperation Program Scholars who underwent the Australian Familiarization Course at Royal Australian Familiarization Course at Royal Australian Air Force Base in Laverton from March 2005 to March 2016

Major Dennis Guillermo PA — Outstanding Achievement Medal, for his role in the intelligence operation that resulted to the successful neutralization of three (3) members of the Maute and Tokboy groups who were behind the Davao City night market bombing

Major Eduard Sia-ed PA — Gawad Sa Kaunlaran, for his community relations activities that uplifted the plight of the people in Itbayat Island in Batanes

SSg Ritchie Navales PA — Bronze Cross, for his role at a military combat operation against the Maute Group in Butog, Lanao del Sur

CAA Sandy Sentelices — Kagitingan sa Barangay, for risking his life beyond the call of duty for the successive encounters operating in Camarines Sur

Marvinea Fernandez—AFP Model Civilian Supervisor of the Year

Virginia de Luna—AFP Model Civilian Employee of the Year.

As the Guest of Honor, President Duterte congratulated the AFP for celebrating 81 years of dedicated service to the country and the Filipino people. He encouraged the AFP to intensify its military operation against lawless groups operating in the country. He also emphasized the importance of strengthening the country’s allies to achieve peace.The Commander-in-Chief rest assured that he will never get tired of supporting the AFP in its transformation roadmap.

Additionally, former presidents, defense chiefs, chiefs of staff, and the diplomatic community attended the 81st Anniversary celebration of the AFP. They were also joined by the living recipients of the Medal of Valor, the highest award a soldier can receive in the service, as well as, the dependents of the deceased awardees.