MANILA, JANUARY 4, 2011 (MANILA STANDARD) by Joyce Pangco Pañares - PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino III returned to Manila Sunday afternoon after a three-day vacation in Baguio City, presidential spokesman Ramon Carandang said.

He had dinner with his sisters Pinky, Viel, and Balsy and their husbands at the Mansion House Saturday night.

He received a mountain bike as a New Year’s gift from one of his Cabinet officials, a source who joined the Baguio delegation said.

The gift was in keeping with Mr. Aquino’s New Year’s resolution to become more physically fit to run the government through exercise, including taking up biking.

He was very happy to receive the bike since he felt it would help him fulfill his resolution to be physically fit this year, a report said.

He received the bike during a family reunion at the presidential mansion in Baguio City, Col. Ramon Dizon, head of the Presidential Security Group, said in a radio interview.

The President’s trip to Baguio was a working visit, but he did not bring his cabinet members. He reportedly studied the annual reports submitted by his cabinet members in preparation for 2011.

Reporters were banned from following the President around. They said Mr. Aquino had dinner in a middle-class restaurant near Burnham Park on Dec. 31. He then had a midnight snack with family members at the Mansion House.

Mr. Aquino’s trip to Baguio was kept a secret from palace reporters.

Traditionally, Presidents held a New Year bonfire with reporters in front of the office of the Philippine Information Agency across from the Mansion House.

Mr. Aquino left for Baguio Thursday afternoon together with Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. chairman Bong Naguiat and Energy Secretary Rene Almendras.

The Presidential Security Group declined to say if Mr. Aquino took a helicopter to Manila Sunday afternoon after it took the President’s convoy seven hours to reach Baguio City Thursday night.

The President then met with Baguio Bishop Carlito Cenzon on Friday.

Mr. Aquino said he spent the time catching up on his paperwork backlog, including reading year-end reports from the various departments and agencies.

New Navy chief named by Florante Solmerin MANILA STANDARD NATION NEWS

Another member of the Philippine Military Academy’s “Matapat” Class ‘79 has just been promoted, adding to the growing list of the fair-haired boys who now occupy sensitive posts in the Armed Forces.

Rear Admiral Alexander Pama will assume his post as Navy’s flag-officer-in-command on January 4, replacing Rear Admiral Danilo Cortez, a class mate of Armed Forces chief Ricardo David, who will reach mandatory retirement on March 7, 2011.

Military spokesman Brig. Gen. Jose Mabanta Jr. on Sunday said the turnover of command will take place on Jan. 4. “Immediately after the turnover, there will be a command conference that will be officiated by the commander-in-chief (President Aquino),” Mabanta said.

With his new post, Pama outclassed his classmate, Philippine Fleet commander Rear Admiral Jose

Luis Alano, and will join his classmates in key positions such as Army chief Lt. Gen. Arturo Ortiz and Northern Luzon Command commander Lt. Gen. Gaudencio Pangilinan. His classmates include Major Gen. Francisco Cruz Jr, deputy chief for intelligence of the Air Force.

Most of his classmates got promoted several weeks after President Aquino assumed office.

Pama started his military career as a cadet in 1974. He was recipient of the 1979 PMA Journalism Award for being Editor-In-Chief of the PMA “The Corps” Magazine.

His assignments included Naval Forces Western Mindanao, Joint Task Force “Trillium” (Zamboanga-Basilan), Naval Task Group “Stingray” (Anti-Terrorism Task Group), and Naval Task Groups 61.1 and 61.2 (Basilan-Sulu-Tawi-Tawi).

Apart from being closely identified with former defense secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr., Pama was also known as a close friend of Senator Gregorio Honasan.

Pama vowed to push forward the modernization of the service.

NEWS REPORT FROM <anytimesnews.com>

REAR ADMIRAL ALEXANDER PAMA: Bemedalled officer named new Philippine Navy chief Written by anytimesnews on Jan-3-11 6:00am

[PHOTO- THEN, Naval Forces Western Mindanao Commander Rear Admiral Alexander Pama is caught in a pensive mood as he looks at the naval territory before the Ens. Majini Pier in Zamboanga City. Pama led NavForWM officers, personnel and dependents in a fluvial parade commemmorating the Feast of the Lady of La Naval on 30 October 2009. FRENCIE CARREON/THE PHILSOUTH ANGLE]

A veteran in the military campaigns against the Abu Sayyaf has been named the new flag officer in command of the Philippine Navy.

Rear Admiral Alexander Pama, currently the Navy vice commander, will assume the naval command on Tuesday in turnover ceremonies to be attended by President Aquino at the Navy headquarters in Manila.

He succeeds Rear Admiral Danilo Cortez who retires from service upon reaching the mandatory retirement age of 56 on Tuesday.

Military spokesperson Brigadier General Jose Mabanta Jr. confirmed Pama’s appointment on Sunday. He said President Aquino will attend the turnover ceremonies and preside over his first military command conference for the year 2011.

Pama belongs to the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1979 whose members now occupy top positions in the military. Among them are Army commanding general Lieutenant General Arturo Ortiz, Northern Luzon Command chief Lieutenant General Gaudencio Pangilinan and Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (Isafp) chief, Brigadier General Romulo Bambao.

Pama has received numerous military medals and civilian awards in the course of his naval career since graduating from the PMA.

On December 21, Pama was given the Distinguished Service Star award during the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) 75th anniversary rites for gains made against the Abu Sayyaf while heading the Naval Forces Western Mindanao based in Zamboanga City for two years.

Oplan ‘Bayanihan’

Pama takes over the Navy command at a time the AFP is implementing “Bayanihan,” a new counterinsurgency plan that veers from combat operations-centered strategy and stresses “winning the peace rather than defeating the enemy.”

Pama was appointed Navy vice commander last December after having served as the Naval Inspector General for three months.

Before his appointment as the Naval Inspector General last September, he was commander of the Naval Forces Western Mindanao which engaged in battles with bandits, Islamic extremists and secessionist rebels in southern Mindanao. He held this post since October 2008.

Pama was also concurrent commander of the Joint Task Force Trillium which mounted offensives against the Abu Sayyaf in Basilan and Zamboanga.

‘Stingray’ commander

Pama also served as commander of the Navy’s antiterrorism group, the Naval Task Group “Stingray” and commanded other naval task groups that operated in the provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.

Pama also successfully completed shipboard and shore assignments and has served as commanding officer of six Navy vessels including the presidential yacht, BRP Ang Pangulo.

Among the numerous staff positions in the Navy headquarters and AFP general headquarters he held were: division chief of the operations control division of the AFP Office of Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence (J-2); assistant chief of naval staff for intelligence (N2); commander of the Naval Intelligence Security Force; superintendent of the Naval School Center; AFP assistant deputy chief of staff for plans (J5); and senior military assistant and chief of staff to then defense secretary Gilbert Teodoro.

Pama was awarded the Philippine Legion of Honor (Degree of Officer) and conferred the Distinguished Service Star by the military five times.

Adopted son

Pama received his latest service star during the AFP 75th anniversary rites on December 2 “for eminently meritorious and valuable service” as commander of the Naval Forces Western Mindanao from October 3, 2008 to September 2, 2010 and as head of the Joint Task Force Trillium from January 30 to September 2, 2010.

“Rear Admiral Pama effectively managed and supervised the conduct of the Navy’s Fleet-Marines operations in Western Mindanao,” the citation said.

Other awards Pama received include two Distinguished Navy Crosses, an Outstanding Achievement Medal, the Silver Wing Medal and numerous medals for merit, commendation and campaign such as the Senior Command-at-Sea Badge and the Marine Command Badge.

The Zamboanga City government has acknowledged Pama’s accomplishments by conferring him the honor of being called its “Adopted Son (Hijo Adoptivo).”

Pama was born on December 21, 1956 in Passi, Iloilo, the second of six children of Artemio Pama and Alice Patino. He is married to Carmela Aquino from La Paz, Iloilo. They have two sons, Gorby and Archie.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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