Navy chief downplays squabble with ex-Marine head

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    NAVY chief Vice Adm. Robert Empedrad yesterday tried to downplay reports that his purported squabble with Marine commandant Maj. Gen. Alvin Parreño prompted the latter to relinquish his post.

    In a phone interview, Empedrad said he and Parreño had settled their differences, specifically on the matter of the separation of the Philippine Marines as a major unit of the Navy.

    Empedrad said Parreño wanted the Marines out of the Navy but Empedrad expressed opposition to have the Marines operate as an independent unit, a stand shared by the defense and military establishments.

    “That’s already resolved. The Marines wanted to be separated, that’s our difference. But higher headquarters opposed it and the President decided that instead of separating, they’d become a key budgetary unit,” he said.

    Parreño , a classmate of Empedrad at the Philippine Military Academy class of 1986, assumed the top post in the Philippine Marines in September 2017. Empedrad took over as Navy chief in January last year.

    “This means the Navy will no longer be managing their (Marines) finances, their budget. All the budget of the Marines will go (straight) to the Marines. Our difference was resolved long ago,” said Empedrad.

    Empedrad added had offered to Parreño the No. 2 post in the Navy before the retirement of Navy vice commander Rear Adm. Jude Ong last month. He said Parreño declined and the post was subsequently given to Marine Maj. Gen. Dante Hidalgo.

    “When my vice commander was about to retire, I offered him (Parreño) to become the vice commander of the Philippine Navy, the No. 2 post in the Philippines. But he said ‘No, instead I’ll give way (as Marine commandant),’” said Empedrad.

    A Marine commandant has control over nearly 10,000 Marine while a Navy vice commander, while higher in the Navy hierarchy, command a handful of people in his office.

    Parreño, who will reach the mandatory retirement age of 56 in March next year, will be replaced by Naval Inspector General Maj. Gen. Nathaniel Casem during rites at the Marine headquarters in Taguig City today.

    “I assure that the Navy leadership is solid and the incoming commandant is a seasoned and a veteran warrior of the Philippine Marine Corps. I think there is no problem,” the Navy chief said.

    Last Thursday, AFP chief Lt. Gen. Noel Clement said Parreño has opted for early retirement for unknown reason. Sources, however, cited Parreño’s differences with Empedrad as the reason.

    “We had a good conversation that after he relinquishes his post, he will be assigned with the office of the flag officer in command (Navy chief) and we will support each other,” Empedrad said of Parreño.

    “He will be assigned at the office of the flag officer in command until he retires March next year. That (early retirement) was not in the conversation. The thing is he is relinquishing the command to a good officer of the Marines,” he said.