Thursday, August 18, 2011

New Navy combat vessel enters country’s waters

By William Depasupil
Manila Times, Thursday, August 18, 2011

THE country’s largest and most modern combat sea vessel, the BRP Gregorio del Pilar, has arrived in the country after a 42-day journey from the United States.

The Philippine Navy spokesman, Lt. Col. Omar Tonsay, disclosed that the vessel, formerly the US Coast Guard cutter Hamilton, entered the country’s territory around 1 p.m. on Wednesday.

“The ship will anchor in Manila Bay anchorage area on August 21 [Sunday] for Customs, immigration and quarantine inspection prior to arrival and welcome ceremony at Manila South Harbor, “ he said.

The ship is manned by 13 officers and 82 enlisted personnel under the command of Capt. Alberto Cruz, a member of the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1988.

As of 1 p.m. yesterday, the vessel was some 273 nautical miles off the baseline of Samar in Eastern Visayas.

It left the United States on July 5.

The deputy spokesman of the Philippine Navy Fleet, Lt. Jr. Grade Rommel Rodriguez, said that Gregorio del Pilar arrived more than a week ahead of its original schedule.

According to him, the ship would be repainted and installed with additional facilities and capabilities, which are cheaper to be done here than in the US.

The Armed Forces chief of staff, Gen. Eduardo Oba Jr., has said that the former US Coast Guard 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 disputed Spratly group of islands.

Oban said that the Hamilton was designed to endure high-sea weather and can sustain longer patrolling at sea.

“It has better and wider range radars to be able to cover a larger scope and has a fire control system that enables it to fire accurate shots even if the ship is in up and down motion, and even if the target is shaking,” he added.

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said that the acquisition of the “new man-of-war” would certainly be a big boost to the Navy’s fleet, considering its multi-role capability.

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