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PH military capable of retrieving grounded Navy ship

MANILA, Philippines – The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said on Saturday, September 1, that it is capable of retrieving Philippine Navy warship BRP Gregorio Del Pilar which ran aground at Hasa-Hasa (Half Moon) Shoal in the South China Sea.

AFP Spokesman Colonel Noel Detoyato confirmed this in a press briefing on Saturday, when asked if the Philippine military can extricate the vessel on its own.

"Yes. Initial assessment has been made by FF15 crew and divers from PCG MRRV-4407," he said.

FF15 refers to BRP Gregorio Del Pilar while MRRV-4407 refers to the Philippine Coast Guard's BRP Sindangan.

"They are now planning the method of retrieval or extraction based on the gathered data by the divers," Detoyato added.

He declined to answer questions about an offer from China to help in the ship's retrieval as "it's a foreign relations issue," and referred the query to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

The AFP spokesman said Commodore Rommel Galang was designated as onsite commander to manage, supervise, and direct the retrieval operations under Joint Task Force Goyong, which also involves the Philippine Air Force.

"While waiting for the tugboats and other PCG and Vavy platforms to arrive, surface and underwater assessments are being done to come up with the right plan of retrieval," Detoyato said.

BRP Gregorio del Pilar, one of the country's most capable warships, ran aground in the shoal off the coast of Palawan on Wednesday, August 29. 

For his part, Philippine Navy spokesman Commodore Jonathan Zata said that "no formal word" has reached the Navy yet regarding the reported offer. 

Zata also said he would have to verify first some reports of Chinese ships near the area. – with reports from Carmela Fonbuena/Rappler.com