President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. stands with SN1 Jeffrey Facundo, dressed in a blue hospital gown, a Naval Special Operations Group member who was seriously injured during the June 17 resupply mission to BRP Sierra Madre at Ayungin Shoal. He is joined by the 79 other soldiers who also participated in the mission. Marcos is joined in his visit to the Western Command by Defense Sec. Gibo Teodoro Jr., AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr., Wescom Commander Rear Adm. Alfonso Torres Jr., Philippine Navy Flag Officer in Command Vice Admiral Toribio Adaci Jr. (Malacañang photo)

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. visited military troops at the Western Command on Sunday, June 23, where he told them to stand firm in performing their mission and duty of defending the nation, particularly the western frontier amidst adversity, with integrity and respect.

Marcos also lauded the soldiers, especially the personnel who have been conducting rotation and reprovision (RoRe) to troops aboard the Philippine Navy vessel BRP Sierra Madre, which was grounded at the Ayungin Shoal in the West Philippine Sea, as they continuously face challenges, harassment, and intimidation from the China Coast Guard and maritime militia.

“But despite these challenges, you have stood up and upheld the fundamental principles that bind all of us Filipinos. A mutual respect for life, for dignity, and for community,” Marcos said in his speech.

He said despite the dangerous maneuvers of the CCG against resupply missions in Ayungin Shoal, Filipino soldiers have remained calm and composed, reacting to the challenges professionally.

“We are not in the business to instigate wars—our great ambition is to provide a peaceful and prosperous life for every Filipino. This is the drum beat – this is the principle that we live by, that we march by,” he stated.

“We refuse to play by the rules that force us to choose sides in a great power competition. No government that truly exists in the service of the people would invite danger or harm to lives and livelihood,” he added, noting that the nature of the Filipino people is to defend the nation and settle issues peacefully.

As such, soldiers are bound to act according to their mandate and perform their duties without resorting to the use of force, intimidation, or deliberately inflicting injury or harm on anyone, he said.

The president likewise said that while the country remains committed to resolving issues in the WPS through peaceful means, the government is firm and “should not be mistaken for acquiescence.”

He also stated that, as history has shown, the Philippines has never yielded to any foreign power, which “we owe to our forefathers the duty to keep the freedoms that they fought, bled, and died for; and that we presently enjoy.”

“Kailanman ay hindi tayo magpapa-supil at magpapa-api kahit na kanino man,” he stressed.

“The Philippines is a responsible state. We will continue to exercise our freedoms and rights in support of our national interest, in accordance with international law,” he added.

Furthermore, he lauded the troops who “sailed the waters and exercised the greatest restraint amidst intense provocation.”

“You demonstrated to the world that the Filipino spirit is one that is brave, determined, and yet is compassionate,” he noted.

He also assured them of the entire nation’s support and gratitude for their dedication to service.

Making special mention of SN1 Jeffrey Facundo, he said the government will continue to provide them with all necessary support, including that of their families.

After his speech, he conferred awards of the Order of Lapu-Lapu with the rank of Kamagi to the 80 soldiers who participated in the RoRe missions, while Facundo, whose right thumb was severed in the June 17 incident, was awarded the Order of Lapu-Lapu with the rank of Kampilan.