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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

US Formally Offers 2nd Warship to AFP

USCGS Dallas WHEC 716 (photo : Shipspotting)

MANILA, Philippines - A top military official bared yesterday that the United States has formally offered to the Philippines a second warship that is expected to boost the country’s territorial defense capability.

Navy chief Vice Admiral Alexander Pama said the US sent last week a letter notifying them about the availability of another US Coast Guard cutter, Dallas.

“They (US) sent a letter offering us formally (the ship). They are telling us this is available and their government has approved (the giving of the ship to the Philippines). They are asking us if we are interested,” Pama said.

He said the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is expected to reply to the letter next week.

“We will respond to the letter and tell them that we are interested. Once they receive that, the formal, detailed discussion would start,” Pama said.

The Navy chief said the transfer of the warship might be held in May if discussions run smoothly.

“If the talks are continuous and smooth flowing, we are looking at a formal transfer to be held in May,” Pama said.

The transfer cost would be funded by proceeds from the Malampaya natural gas project off Palawan that the Department of Energy will provide.

Officials have said the transfer cost for the cutter Dallas would be close to the P450 million spent for the first Coast Guard cutter that the Philippine Navy acquired last year.

The first Coast Guard cutter that was converted into the BRP Gregorio del Pilar was acquired from the US Coast Guard last year to improve the Philippines’ territorial defense capability.

The Gregorio del Pilar is the Navy’s first Hamilton-class vessel and was acquired under the US Foreign Military Sales program.

The ship is 380 feet long and is now the Navy’s largest ship. The ship is currently deployed in Palawan since Dec. 23 to secure the country’s natural resources.

The Philippines deployed the ship amid a territorial row over the Spratly Islands, an area in the West Philippine Sea that is rich in mineral and marine resources.

The Philippines, China, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan claim either part or the entire Spratly Islands, which has been the subject of a territorial dispute in the region.

Last November, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said her government is ready to provide a second war ship to the Philippines.

Clinton, who visited Manila to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Mutual Defense Treaty, said the US would remain “in the corner” of the Philippines, its “trusted ally.”

Early this month, US Rep. Ed Royce said the ship “should soon be on its way to Manila” and that the review process for its transfer would be completed soon.

Dallas is a weather high-endurance cutter and has features similar to that of Gregorio del Pilar.

The US Coast Guard had used the ship for drug and migrant interdiction, law enforcement, search and rescue, living marine resources protection, and defense readiness.

The ship can accommodate up to 180 officers and sailors.

Philippines to Get Second Hamilton Ship by May

USCGS Dallas WHEC 716 (photo : Eucom)

BAGUIO CITY, Philippines—If things go according to plan, the Philippine Navy would be getting its second Hamilton ship by May of this year, Vice Admiral Alexander Pama said Saturday.

Speaking to reporters in a chance interview after the Philippine Military Academy Alumni Homecoming, Pama said that he has received the formal letter of offer on the Hamilton Class Cutter US Coast Guard Dallas.

“Kung masusunod yung schedule, bago matapos and taon, dalawa na yung Secretary Class natin. Maaring May (If the schedule will be followed, before the end of the year we will have two Secretary Class vessels),” Pama told reporters.

In May 2011, the Philippine Navy Acquired a Hamilton Class Cutter, which the Philippine Navy christened as BRP-Gregorio del Pilar, from the United States as excess defense article under the Foreign Assistance Act.

Like the BRP-Gregorio del Pilar, the Dallas will likely be stripped off most of its equipment and armaments. Pama said they requested that some of the equipment be retained on the ship.

“Naiintindihan naman natin na ibang kaggamitan doon ay di basta-basta pwedeng ipamigay… Kasama sa pag-uusapan kung ano iyong pwedeng i-retain (We understand that some of the equipment they can’t give away easily… This is still included in the negotiations, which equipment can be retained),” Pama said adding that both parties are still in the initial stages of the negotiation
When asked where the Dallas will be deployed, Pama said: “We will cross the bridge when we get there.”

He said that they are currently arranging for the transfer of the vessel and training personnel.

However, he admitted that normally, vessels are deployed in tandem. BRP-Gregorio del Pilar, which was commissioned last December 2011, was deployed to the Malampaya natural gas field in the West Philippine Sea.

The United States Congress formally approved the transfer of the Dallas Cutter to the Philippines on February 10.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Military Finalizing Plan to Acquire 1 Squadron of F-16 Fighter Jets

PAF is proposing the procurement of at least one squadron or 14 to 24 F-16s (photo :

A RANKING military officer said the Armed Forces high command is already discussing the details on the procurement of one squadron of F-16 “Fighting Falcon” jet fighters from the US.

Maj. Gen. Roy Deveraturda, Armed Forces deputy chief of staff for plans and programs (J-5) said although the acquisition of jet fighters was not included in the first batch of approved big-ticket items the project is now being discussed thoroughly.

“Since we decommissioned our [fighter] jets in 1995 there had been a long gap. So we need [jet] fighter capability. We’re proposing the procurement of at least one squadron. We are talking here of 14 to 24 F-16s,” Deveraturda said.

Earlier, reports said the Department of the Foreign Affairs (DFA) had already started negotiations with the US government for the acquisition of F-16.

But Deveraturda said the Armed Forces has no update yet about the ongoing process of negotiations.

Earlier, the military announced that four of the eight utility helicopters, that were bought by the previous administration under the Armed Forces Modernization Program, are already in the country. Deveraturda said four of the eight Sokol (Falcon) helicopters from Polish-Italian defense supplier Augusta PZL Swidnik have arrived at Clark Field in Pampanga and are now being assembled.

“The four utility helicopters will soon be inspected by the Air Force. These are a great addition to our capability, and we hope to use them soon,” Deveraturda said.

He said the remaining four are being expected to be delivered at the third quarter of this year.
Deveraturda said the delivery of the four helicopters set into concrete action the eight-year modernization program that Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin charted for the Armed Forces.

Gazmin wants to acquire armored vehicles, radar systems, missile-guided and multi-role vessels and aircraft that include fighter jets under the program with a projected total cost of at least P70 billion.

Since the amount needed is too large, he said the acquisition will be pursued through a Congress-approved Multi-Year Obligation Agreement (MYOA), with a government to government as the procurement mode.

Deveraturda said the military is also hoping to sign the contract for the delivery of another Hamilton class cutter from the United States until March this year.

Friday, February 17, 2012

PAF Gets 4 New Choppers

PAF W-3 Sokol helicopter (photo : imagenesmilitares)

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine Air Force (PAF) on Wednesday disclosed the arrival of four brand new Combat Utility Helicopters from the Augusta PZL Swidik of Italy and Poland on February 14, 2012.

The PAF hierarchy said the brand new helicopters arrived at the Clark Air Base in Pampanga, and is the first batch of the eight helicopters that the PAF is to receive from the Polish aircraft manufacturer.

Major General Catalino G. Dela Cruz, PAF Commanding General, said the delivery of the new helicopters is a welcome addition to the fleet of the PAF.

He said that the formal blessing and turnover of the PAF’s newest acquisition will be announced following the completion of assembly and rigid test flights to be conducted on the new helicopters.
According to Lieutenant Colonel Miguel Ernesto G. Okol, PAF Public Information Office director, the “Sokol” or Falcon in Polish, can be fitted with various equipment – depending on the mission – that makes it an ideal utility helicopter for the PAF.

It is NVG (Night Vision Goggle)-capable and is equipped with an SN 350 Autopilot, he added.
Compared to the Huey helicopters, he said the “Sokol” is a more capable utility platform.

Okol explained that while the Huey can carry only seven passengers, the “Sokol” can accommodate 10 passengers with a maximum takeoff weight of 14,110 pounds, an endurance of three hours and 19 minutes, and it can reach a maximum range of 402 nautical miles in a single flight, with airspeed of about 140.5 knots.

The “Sokol” is fitted with gun mounts for the M60D MG on both sides, and when utilized during search and rescue (SAR) or over water operations, it can be equipped with pilot-controlled Emergency Floatation Gear attached to the lowest portion of the aircraft.

It can also perform various missions other than combat to support the country’s peace and development efforts.

“The CUH project is worth P2.8 billion, and has undergone the rigid screening process prior to its procurement,” Okol said.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Raw Beauty of Tumalog Falls in Oslob, Cebu

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Another must-see and recently discovered place in Oslob is the raw beauty of Tumalog Falls.
The falls have mini-umbrellas that cascade fine strands of cold, fresh water in a rain-like fashion.
Unlike in Kawasan Falls near Moal Boal, where it was overdeveloped with ugly cement structures and huts that destroyed its natural beauty, Tumalog Falls can be developed correctly as an eco-tourist destination without building structures near the falls itself and using only natural materials.
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To get there from the Oslob Whale Watching area, you first have to drive for 15 minutes to the highlands of Oslob. (We were pleasantly surprised to find out that the road to Tumalog Falls was paved and developed already.)

Then, you have to hike for another 15 minutes to discover the falls. There's no entrance fee at the moment.
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The hike down was very steep, and we doubt if cars can maneuver their way back up the angled slope.
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There's a natural mini-pool that welcomes you as you enter the area.
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Century-old trees provide the Jurassic Park-like ambiance.
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Everyone's jaw dropped in awe--we all felt humbled by the natural beauty of the falls.
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Looking up the falls was very relaxing. Everyone just wanted to stay a little longer to commune with nature.
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Tumalog Falls, Oslob, Cebu by Benji Reyes-23.jpgUnfortunately, there was litter all around the area from the local tourists. The surroundings are not maintained by the local government.

Can we save Tumalog Falls from destruction from the influx of tourists this summer?

A proper eco-tourism program MUST to be implemented in Oslob really soon.
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The challenge on this trip is conquering the steep hike back to the cars.
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Tip: Make sure to hike back up continuously to build momentum -- don't stop in the middle.
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Tumalog Falls, Oslob, Cebu
(Also known as “Toslob Falls” or “Mag-Ambak Falls”?)
15 minutes away by car from the Butanding Watching area.
Bring your own car or rent a habal-habal to bring you there.

The Legend of Sumilon Island

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When I was in Moalboal, I heard stories about an island off the South Eastern Coast of Cebu.
I was told it is a romantic, back-to-nature island escape, and that it has a lush forest, white sand beaches and good food.

It is called SUMILON Island

(It takes its name from being a storm shelter for fishermen, where they can take cover - sumilong - from strong typhoons.)
Since then, I've always wanted to experience it and that dream came true last January, together with awesome company.

Here is a glimpse of our memorable Sumilon Island experience...
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Sumilon is located 3 hours away from Cebu, in the town of Oslob. (Read: History of Sumilon)

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The banca named Izara picks you up at the Puerto Sumilon port. (Boat Transfers Schedule)

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A comfortable 15-minute boat ride takes you to the island.

Welcome to SUMILON Island
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The island has 14 deluxe rooms, 2 glamping tents, and future plans of luxurious villas.

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The rooms are spacious with 2 queen beds, TV with DVD, and a simple study table.

(Check out In-Room Dining Menu)
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The restroom is also roomy, clean, and has reliable hot/cold showers.
Although the rooms have this old-school feel, they are well-maintained.

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A duyan is located outside each room, where you can hang around al fresco with a great sea view.

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An outdoor massage area is available for ultimate pampering. (Amuma Spa Rates and Schedule)

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An inviting infinity pool overlooking Oslob welcomes you to jump in. (Pool Guidelines)
(Tip: It's not heated, unfortunately, and it can get cold at night.)

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Thin-crust, oven-baked pizza -- a wonderful treat on the island.

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Sometimes, when you are on an island, eating really good pizza becomes a simple luxury.

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Sumilon Island Hiking Map

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A big part of the island is undeveloped. You can have a nice 40-minute hike around the lush forest and cliff-side elevated views of the island.
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As you hike, you get to appreciate a bird's eye view of the natural lagoon and the white beach.
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Some of the white beach areas of the island are still untouched and undeveloped.
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It is a haven for birdwatchers. (Photo by Benji Reyes)
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When you arrive at the highest point, you'll see the historic watchtower ruins (Punta Baluarte Spanish lighthouse) and this modern lighthouse you can climb to get a 360o-view of the island.
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On the other side of the island, you'll see the first Marine Sanctuary in the Philippines.
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You can go underwater for a closer look. (Photo by Aman) (Aquamania Diving Rates)
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The corals are rehabilitated and are now teeming with life. (Photo by Aman)
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Finding Nemo is actually not that hard... (Photo by Aman)
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My favorite part of the island is the shifting White Sand Bar Beach where you can swim, snorkel, sunbathe or have a picnic with your special someone.
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It's also a place where you can be inspired and get creative... (Photo by Aman)

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As the sun sets, Sumilon transforms into a dramatic and romantic place...
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At night, you can witness how the fishermen catch krill to feed the butanding the next day.

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The island ambiance is conducive to sharing secrets and forging relationships. (Alcoholic drinks are not required...)
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The white sand beach turns into a bonfire dinner setting...
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What happens in Sumilon stays in Sumilon, with only the bonfire as your witness. :) (Photo by Benji)
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One of my favorite feasts is the Clambake and Barbecue Dinner Buffet by the beach...
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with grilled fresh squid, fish, and seafood skewers,...
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with fresh scallops from Bohol,...
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with occasional servings of lobsters, and...
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charcoal-grilled steaks!
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For dessert, fresh fruits (pineapple, watermelon and buko) are served...
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alongside innovative desserts like Uum Ali Pudding, Peanut Butter Buchi, among others. :)
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The man behind all these yummy food is Chef Eugene, who was part of the original Lolo Dad's Chef Team. :)
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Sumilon Island lives up to its legend of unspoiled nature experience, awesome dining memories, relaxing spa and no-worries Cebuano hospitality.

Plus, Wireless Internet is available in the main dining pavilion. :)
It would be nice if the rooms were upgraded with bathtubs, and the cliff-side villas were added with their own private infinity pool. But even without those, Sumilon already has a lot to offer.
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Sumilon Island, Bancogon, Oslob, Cebu Philippines 6025
Telephone: +6332 481-0801, 516-7236
Mobile: +63917 631-7514, +63 917 631-7512

Manila Sales Office:Rm. 704 Cityland Herrera Tower Rufino cor. Valero Sts. Salcedo Village,  Makati City
Telephone: +632 817-5751 / 887-1348
Full-Board Accommodation Package starts at P15,000 net per night.
Day Trip Packages are also available (especially when you visit Butanding Watching in Oslob).
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