By Jason De Asis
BALER, Aurora — The 17th Philippine-Spanish Friendship Day was celebrated in Baler town of Aurora on Sunday on a high note with the relations between the two countries seen to become more dynamic and vibrant in the coming years.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana was guest of honor during the commemoration of the 120th anniversary of the siege of Baler and the 17th Philippine-Spanish Friendship Day in this capital town of Aurora.
Lorenzana said the old ties of the two countries, which started more than a hundred years ago, remain strong and deeper as manifested with the collaborations in some areas of development.
Lorenzana said the Spanish government has been generous to the Philippines through various project grants and official development assistance (ODA).
He particularly cited the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) report indicating the Philippines has already received a total of US$14.43 billion in terms of ODA and US$10.99 million project grants from Spain, as of December 2017.
Lorenzana also noted the defense logistics cooperation between the Philippines and Spain which was signed in 1996.
In 2016, he said the Spanish aircraft manufacturer Airbus Defense and Space completed the delivery of the three units of airbus C295 medium lift aircraft worth P5.39 billion, which are now being used by the Philippine Air Force.
Recently, the Defense Secretary said one unit of command and control fixed wing turboprop aircraft for the PAF worth P1.8 billion was likewise delivered.
With the anticipated finalization of the memorandum of understanding on logistics, defense materiel, armaments and defense industry cooperation this September 2019, Lorenzana said he is confident on a stronger and more dynamic partnership with Spain in the years ahead.
“With confidence, I can say that both countries are up to the challenge of sustaining our mutual respect, and further nurturing an amicable and an enabling relationship, it is fitting that we take this history as inspiration to be each other’s support and strength,” he said.
Meanwhile, Lorenzana asked the people of Baler to strive in keeping the epic story of Baler siege ever alive, and its valuable lessons cherished.
“May the Baler epic about the love for country of both Filipino revolutionary heroes and Spanish soldiers live forever. And may our grandchildren likewise learn from this historical treasure about the touching triumph of humanity,” he added.
Senator Sonny Angara also noted the investments from Spain to the country.
“More opportunities for growth and progress on both countries relations continue. Baler became a legend of its own history for being one of the most epic war tales in the country, the bilateral trade on the two countries continue to expand,” he said.
“Our relations to the Spain continue to deepen.We have final assistance, millions of dollars of assistance from the Spanish government for Marawi, for recovery, among others,” Angara added.
With the theme Amistad Dudadera (Lasting Friendship), the event was also attended by Ambassador of Spain to the Philippines Jorge Moragas, Michael Ong-senior deputy executive secretary from the Office of President, National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) Chairman Rene Escalante; NHCP acting executive director Ludovico Badoy; Vice Governor Rommel Rico Angara; and Baler Mayor Nelianto Bihasa.
Others in the event were Philippine Army 7th Infantry Division commander Major General Lenard Agustin, Aurora Police Provincial Office Director Colonel Cosme Abrenica, 703rd Infantry Brigade chief Brigadier General Roel Tolentino, 1st Infantry “Sinagtala “Battalion head Lt. Col. Jose Mari Torrenueva, members of the diplomatic corps, local officials, students, and residents here. (PNA)a