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Nolcom and northern borders

/ 04:04 AM January 10, 2022

For the Philippines, the Pacific War started on Dec. 8, 1941, Feast Day of the Immaculate Concepcion, when 32 Japanese army bombers based in Formosa opened hostilities by hitting airfields in Baguio and Tuguegarao. Shortly after at around noontime, 192 planes of Japan’s 11th Air Fleet attacked Iba and Clark Field, catching most of the planes on the ground and destroying in less than an hour the Far East Air Force of Gen. Douglas MacArthur. These actions resulted in enemy air superiority needed for the invasion of the Philippines.

The Japanese 14th Army led by Gen. Masaharu Homma began the invasion with initial landings in Northern Luzon at Aparri, Gonzaga, and Vigan, by selected naval infantry units. However, the main attack took place on Dec. 22 when over 43,000 men landed at three points along the coast of Lingayen Gulf. Four years later, in January 1945, the US Sixth Army under Gen. Walter Krueger, landed in Lingayen Gulf to start the liberation of Luzon, taking the same route as Homma’s 14th Army.

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Understandably, much of our focus is on Mindanao and the West Philippine Sea. But let us not forget the lessons of history. The avenue of attack by any aggressor could still be from the north using the same route taken by Homma’s 14th Army in December 1941 and Krueger’s Sixth Army in January 1945.

Today the responsibility for defending the nation’s sovereignty in its northern territories, to include the surrounding waters, as well as for conducting counter-insurgency operations in the area, is with the Northern Luzon Command (Nolcom), one of six unified commands of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. The area of responsibility of Nolcom includes the Ilocos Region, Cordillera Administrative Region, Cagayan Valley, and Central Luzon including Bajo de Masinloc (Scarborough Shoal), and the Benham Rise. The command has operational control over units of the 5th Infantry Division in Isabela, the 7th Infantry Division in Nueva Ecija, along with supporting contingents of air and naval forces.

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During a recent trip to the north just before the alert level was raised from 2 to 3, I had an opportunity to visit the headquarters of Nolcom located at Camp Gen. Servillano Aquino in Tarlac City. The commander, Lt. Gen. Arnulfo Burgos Jr., had just retired and the acting chief was Maj. Gen. Andrew Costelo of the 7th Infantry Division based at Fort Magsaysay. The caretaker officer who welcomed and introduced me to the command was Col. Rosendo “Jun” Abad, chief of the Unified Command Staff who hails from Gonzaga, Cagayan. Some of the other officers I had the pleasure to meet were Col. Jose Tadeo Javier, assistant chief of the Unified Staff for Plans (U-5), Col. Benjamin Tianco, the command inspector general, and Lt. Col. Elmar Salvador, who took us on a tour of the camp.

Col. Jun Abad belongs to Class of 1993, one of the largest to graduate from the PMA, with almost 200 members. A dedicated and mission-oriented officer, proud of his roots in the Academy, Abad leaves Nolcom next week to take up a new assignment as deputy commander of the Special Operations Command (Socom) at Fort Magsaysay. A family man, Jun has twins, two boys both eager to follow in their father’s footsteps at Fort Del Pilar in Baguio City.

In May 2016, Nolcom chief Lt. Gen. Romeo Tanalgo of the Philippine Marines hoisted the Philippine flag on Mavulis Island, signifying the country’s sovereignty in its northernmost territory. A year later, President Duterte issued Executive Order No. 25, changing the name “Benham Rise” to “Philippine Rise.” It was Nolcom that mounted an underwater flag on Philippine Rise 200 feet deep off the coast of Casiguran, Aurora Province. The change in name ceremonies, graced by the presence of the commander in chief, included a send-off party for a group of Filipino scientists involved in maritime scientific research in the Philippine Rise, the laying of floating markers by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, and a flyby of aircraft conducting maritime air patrols in the area.

Nolcom and Naval Forces Northern Luzon completed the construction and installation of sovereign markers on 11 uninhabited islands in the northern territories. The markers symbolize our country’s absolute sovereignty over these islands and the surrounding territorial waters. In safeguarding our northern frontier, Nolcom continues to conduct maritime patrols over the Philippine Rise, Bajo de Masinloc, and the Batanes Straits. In times of disaster and natural calamities, Nolcom is in the forefront of rescue operations and the delivery of relief supplies to affected communities.

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TAGS: Northern Luzon Command, Ramon J. Farolan, Reveille
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