MANILA, Philippines – In a bid to improve maritime security that will address both “internal and external threats,” particularly in the contested West Philippine Sea, the Philippine Navy unveiled a number of its assets, with President Benigno Aquino III leading formal ceremonies on Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2011.
In his speech during the commissioning and christening ceremonies at the Pier 13, South Harbor, Mr. Aquino cited the Barko ng Republika ng Pilipinas (BRP) Gregorio del Pilar to lead the country’s navy fleet in fighting piracy and other maritime lawlessness, as well as conducting “sovereign patrol” in the sea borders.
BRP Gregorio del Pilar, named after one of the youngest generals during the Philippine Revolution against Spain, was formerly a Hamilton 378-foot High Endurance Cutter of the US Coast Guard and is now the country’s biggest and most modern warship. The Navy refurbished it after arriving in Manila on Aug. 23, 2011.
The President said that BRP Gregorio del Pilar “will be deployed immediately” to secure the Malampaya power project and defend the country’s territory in the West Philippine Sea. He also hinted that the government is planning to acquire additional warships in the future.
“We are looking into the possibility of purchasing two more Hamilton-type vessels,” Navy spokesman Lt. Col. Omar Tonsay said.
Aside from the BRP Gregorio del Pilar, BRP Tagbanua, a Philippine-built Landing Craft Utility (LCU) and a BO105C-type German Messerschmitt Bolkow helicopter were also commissioned.
BRP Tagbanua, described as a readily available watercraft for combat missions, as well as non-combatant transport and logistical support especially during rescue and relief missions, was acquired with a P189-million budget from the AFP Modernization Fund. Its engine, propulsion system, hull and other fixtures were constructed by local companies, which Tonsay said, will promote the country’s shipbuilding industry.
The Navy chopper, on the other hand, was donated by the Department of Tourism.
Presidential sisters, Ballsy Cruz, Pinky Abellada and Viel Dee, stood as ceremonial “sponsors” to the newly-commissioned assets. They joined Mr. Aquino in the traditonal wine-bottle breaking (for the two ships) and wine-pouring (for the helicopter) ceremonies.
‘Ang Pangulo’ is back
Meanwhile, after being renamed in 2009 as BRP Bagong Pag-asa, the presidential yacht has been reverted back to its traditional name: BRP Ang Pangulo.
According to Tonday, the presidential yacht was named BRP Bagong Pagasa by then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, to serve as a “hospital and relief response ship” that could easily be deployed to deliver aid to disaster-struck areas.
“The present administration wants BRP Ang Pangulo to be a floating government center, by bringing Malacaniang to different parts of the country,” Tonsay said.
Aside from the President, heads of the different government agencies will be allowed to use BRP Ang Pangulo, “depending on the need or concern” of a particular area. – Rappler.com