MANILA, Philippines – Amid rising tensions over territorial disputes in the West Philippine Sea, the country will soon get its second Hamilton-class cutter, the BRP Ramon Alcaraz, by the first week of August, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Monday.
Jose L. Cuisia, Jr., Philippine Ambassador to the United States (US), visited the BRP Alcaraz and its officers and crew at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Charleston, South Carolina on Sunday before going to its three-week voyage to Manila, DFA said in a statement.
“As you know, there are some tensions in the West Philippine Sea and this may put you in harm’s way, but there is no doubt that you will perform your duty of protecting Philippine territory if needed,” Cuisia told the officers and crew of the BRP Alcaraz, led by Capt. Ernesto Baldovino.
“We do not want to see a confrontation and we are hoping that diplomatic efforts would ease these tensions,” Cuisia said. “We are for peace and for the stability of the region but at the same time, we are prepared to defend what is ours.”
Tensions in the West Philippine Sea rose several months ago over territorial disputes with China which claims the entire area.
The Philippines first acquired the 48-year-old Hamilton-class cutter, the BRP Gregorio del Pilar, from the US Coast Guard in 2011 while the 45-year-old BRP Alcaraz was acquired by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) last May 22, 2012 for P450 million.
“We look forward to the Alcaraz joining its sister ship, the BRP Gregorio Del Pilar,” Cuisia said. “We look forward to further upgrading the capabilities of the Philippine Navy.”
The 378-foot BRP Alcaraz is named after Commodore Ramon Alcaraz, a World War II hero who shot down three enemy aircraft while commanding the Q112 Abra, a 55-foot offshore patrol boat, during the Japanese invasion of the Philippines.
“Ramon Alcaraz had a very distinguished record in serving our country and our people. You are expected to live up to his reputation,” Cuisia said.
Cuisia pegged the cost of retrofitting the former US Coast Guard ship Dallas at $15.6 million.
BRP Alcaraz will depart from South Carolina at 10 a.m. Monday (US Time) and will arrive by the first week of August, DFA said.