Aquino will be welcomed at Pier 13 in South Harbor by government officials including Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim, AFP chief Lt. Gen. Eduardo Oban Jr., Philippine Navy Flag Officer in Command Vice Admiral Alexander Pama, and PF15 Commanding Officer Capt. Alberto Cruz.
Manned by 13 officers and 82 enlisted personnel, BRP Gregorio del Pilar arrived in the country last week after a month-long voyage from the United States. The warship dropped anchor at the Manila Bay yesterday to undergo customs, immigration and quarantine inspection.
The Navy recently acquired the refurbished US Coast Guard Cutter Hamilton (WHEC-715) and commissioned it as BRP Gregorio del Pilar Pacific Fleet 15.
The 378-foot vessel with a crew capacity of 180 is equipped with armament and weapons system, propulsion plant, electrical generation, helicopter hangar and flight deck, among others.
It will be deployed to carry out missions for drug interdiction, law enforcement, search and rescue operations, defense readiness and migrant interdiction. It will also perform tasks in protecting the country’s natural gas and oil exploration projects off Palawan amid reported incursions in the West Philippine Sea.
Defense department spokesman Col. Hernando Iriberri said Aquino’s presence during the event signifies the government’s seriousness in modernizing the military.
“It shows the commitment of the government to improve the capability of the AFP to perform its constitutional mandate as protector of our people and guardian of our territory,” Iriberri said.
He said the arrival of the BRP Gregorio del Pilar “is a step forward toward the realization of the thrust to modernize the AFP.”
The ship is the Navy’s first Hamilton-class cutter and is its largest vessel. – With Alexis Romero