Monday, August 22, 2011

Hamilton icon of AFP’s capability upgrade

By William Depasupil
The Manila Times, Monday, August 22, 2011

THE Philippine Navy’s largest and most modern ship, the Hamilton class US Coast Guard cutter, now known as the BRP (Barko ng Republika ng Pilipinas) Gregorio del Pilar, symbolizes the country’s resolve and determination to defend its territorial integrity, according to Navy flag-officer in command Vice Admiral Alexander Pama.

Pama disclosed Sunday that the 3,390-ton warship is now anchored at the Manila Bay after a 45-day journey from Coast Guard island in Alameda, San Francisco, California.

“This will be an icon to the revival of the capability upgrade of our Armed Forces,” he said. “This is the symbol of our resolve and determination to protect what is ours.”

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff, Gen. Eduardo Oban Jr., earlier said that the cutter would be used for multi-mission operations such as search and rescue, and maritime security patrols, particularly in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) to protect the country’s interests that include the Malampaya Gas Project in the waters of Palawan near the dispute Spratly group of islands.

The ship, even at 46 years old, is now the biggest and most modern in the Philippine Navy’s inventory. It was launched on December 18, 1965, commissioned to the US Coast Guard March 18, 1967 and decom-missioned on March 28, 2011.

It was acquired by the Philippine government at a transfer cost of P450 million, minus the air surface search radar, close-in weapons system and secondary 25-mm gun system.

But Pama said that even if the Hamilton is already old, it is still well-maintained and capable of enduring high weather that can make it sustain longer patrolling at sea.

“It’s not a question of age but the capability of the ship. One of our problems before is our lack of patrol ship that could endure high weather and can sustain longer patrolling at sea,” he said.

“This ship has proven its capability of crossing the Pacific Ocean and I think there’s no other place in the Philippines that has bigger waves [than the Pacific Ocean],” Pama added.

According to him, the ship is now going through the usual customs, immigration and quarantine inspection before it would be dry-docked for at least a month for repainting from white to the Navy’s official gray color. Some minor repairs and fitting of additional facilities and equipment will also be done.

Pama said that the ship has not been formally commissioned yet to the Navy and its name BRP Gregorio del Pilar is not yet final pending approval from the Office of the President.

“The name BRP Gregorio del Pilar is only a provisional name. It still needs to pass through proper procedure until it is approved by the President. It is only then that it can be commissioned and given its final name,” Pama added referring to President Benigno Aquino 3rd.

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