Monday, January 28, 2008

Sulu officials support possible term extension of AFP chief

JOLO, Sulu (January 25, 2008) – Sulu provincial officials expressed support Friday on the possible extension of the term of Armed Forces chief General Hermogenes Esperon.

Esperon, a veteran army commander in Mindanao, is set to retire on February 9 at age 56, but government sources said President Gloria Arroyo is likely to extend his term so he can continue his programs and reforms in the military.

Arroyo is in Switzerland since Tuesday for a series of meetings
with the officials of the Aragon Financial Group (AFG) and the Swiss Chamber of Commerce. The AFG could help the Philippines in its policy to ensure continuous and adequate supply of energy through integrated and intensive exploration, production, management and development of the country's indigenous energy resources such as oil and natural gas.

The President may announce Esperon's extension when she returns to Manila, sources said on Friday.

"General Hermogenes Esperon has done a very a good job and he is one of the proponent of many AFP-related humanitarian program in Sulu. We are very supportive of General Esperon and will support his extension as Chief-of-Staff," Sulu Gov. Sakur Tan said.

Tan said business and religious leaders and the mayors in Sulu are also supporting Esperon's possible term extension. "We have a relatively good peace and order condition in Sulu because of AFP and other stakeholders of peace. The AFP is our partner in peace and progress and we are the government's partner in nation building," he said.

Tan has previously hailed Esperon for creation of the National Development Command, a new unit in the AFP that especially focus on the basic socio-economic development and infrastructure projects in conflict-affected areas.

Through the NDC, the AFP hopes to contribute in the convergence of efforts by the different line agencies of government in the repair and construction of schools, health centers, sources of potable water, roads and bridges and in the process rebuild lives that have been disrupted by terrorist activities and violence.

Esperon on Friday inspected troops in Sulu and Basilan provinces as part of his farewell visit in southern Philippines, where he started his military career. Esperon said it would be an honor is President Arroyo extends his term.

Radio reports on Friday quoted Esperon as saying: "Hindi ko alam kung magkakaroon ng announcement. But kung magkaganoon man, tulad ng sinasabi ko, I'd be very honored to serve for some more time kung gaano katagal ibibigay sa atin na extension lalong lalo na, kailangan nating pursue ang ating momentum nagawa natin against the New People's Army and Abu Sayyaf terrorists." (I don't know if there will be an announcement (by the President), but if there will be as I have said, I would be much honored to serve for some more time. We need to pursue the momentum (of what we have already achieved) against the New People's Army and the Abu Sayyaf terrorists.) (Sulu Media Desk)


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