MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Navy welcomed its most powerful warship yet, the Pohang-class corvette BRP Conrado Yap, with an official ceremony at the Manila South Harbor on Tuesday, August 20.
Named after the most decorated Philippine Army soldier killed in action in the Korean War in 1951, the Conrado Yap boasts two 76mm Oto Melara and two 40mm Otobreda automatic guns, and two triple torpedo launchers, giving it anti-surface, anti-air, and anti-submarine warfare capabilities.
The newly acquired vessel will also be used as a platform to train the Navy ahead of the arrival of the country's first frigate warships in 2020.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, who led the welcome ceremony, lauded the ship's acquisition, saying he has long believed that the Philippines needs a strong navy, and the BRP Conrado Yap is a step toward that goal, which remains a long shot for the Philippine Navy.
The recent series of Chinese warship incursions into Philippine territorial waters highlights this need, Lorenzana said.
"The frequency has increased also, so it's very alarming why so many navy ships of the Chinese are passing through Sibutu Strait. My question is, where are they coming from? Where are they going?" the defense chief added.
Photo by KD Madrilejos/Rappler
If he had his way, Lorenzana said he would deploy the new warship to Palawan and Sulu Sea, where the Chinese naval vessels were sighted by Philippine troops.
The BRP Conrado Yap corvette has a length of 88.3 meters, with a beam of 10 meters and draft of 2.9 meters. At full load, it displaces 1,216 tons, and can accommodate up to 118 crew. It has two gas turbines for speed, enabling it to reach a maximum speed of 32 knots with a range of up to 4,000 nautical miles, capable of sustained operations for 20 days.
It is the most potent of the Navy’s current assets, said Philippine Fleet Commander Rear Admiral Giovanni Carlo Bacordo.
Together with two AgustaWestland 159 helicopters acquired in May, the BRP Conrado Yap boosts the Navy’s anti-submarine warfare capability.
The corvette served the Republic of Korea Navy from 1987 to 2016 as the ROKS Chungju. It was donated and transferred to the Philippine Navy during a commissioning ceremony on August 5 at the Jinhae Naval Base in Changwon City, South Korea.
Photo by KD Madrilejos/Rappler
The BRP Conrado Yap left South Korea on August 12, escorted by the BRP Davao Del Sur, the Navy’s second amphibious landing dock vessel.
On their way to the Philippines from South Korea, the two vessels were shadowed by a Chinese naval ship when they passed China's waters. Captain Richard Gonzaga, Commander of Naval Task Force 80.5 in charge of the voyage, said the non-hostile encounter with the Chinese warship is part of customary naval protocol.
The corvette’s maiden crew with more than 100 members led by Captain Marco Buena went through 13 weeks of operational and warfare trainings in South Korea, and will have further trainings in the Philippines.
Before deployment, the BRP Conrado Yap will be fitted with communication systems for interoperability with the Navy’s other ships.
The Philippines is on a race to build a credible defense posture as it faces a security threat from China’s expansionism in the West Philippine Sea, the country’s exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea.
The Navy is set to acquire its own brand new frigates in 2020: the BRP Jose Rizal expected in April, and the BRP Antonio Luna expected in September. – Rappler.com
JC Gotinga often reports about the West Philippine Sea, the communist insurgency, and terrorism as he covers national defense and security for Rappler. He enjoys telling stories about his hometown, Pasig City. JC has worked with Al Jazeera, CNN Philippines, News5, and CBN Asia.