Surigao Sur native is new AFP Chief of Staff

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/10 July) – A native of Cantilan, Surigao del Sur is the new Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff.

In turnover rites in Camp Aguinaldo Friday, Army chief Lt. Gen. Hernando Iriberri assumed leadership of the 125,000-strong AFP from Gen. Gregorio Catapang Jr.

Iriberri, a member of Philippine Military Academy “Matikas” Class ’83, commanded the 7th Infantry Division in Nueva Ecija and the 503rd Brigade in Abra before his appointment as Army chief.

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He will retire on April 22 next year when he reaches 56, the mandatory retirement age for the military.

President Aquino credited Iriberri for “the most peaceful election in the province of Abra,” when the latter assumed as Army chief on Feb. 7, 2014.

Iriberri, the 46th AFP Chief of Staff, faces the challenge of strengthening the country’s defense capability amid growing tensions in the West Philippine Sea between the Philippines and China.

The Philippines has maintained the disputed territory, a cluster of reefs and rocks collectively called Panatag Shoal, belongs to its Exclusive Economic Zone based on public international law.

China, meanwhile, has insisted it has sovereignty over Panatag Shoal, which it calls Huangyan Island, as a traditional fishing ground of its people.

The Philippines has submitted its claim to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea for arbitration.

China, however, said it would not submit to the jurisdiction of the tribunal.

Aside from the territorial row with China, the country is still confronting the almost 50-year old communist-led New People’s Army, which is most active in the Davao Region, parts of northern Mindanao and Surigao del Sur, Iriberri’s home province. (MindaNews)