Maritime expert sees challenges in PH Navy’s plan to save Filipinos in Libya | Inquirer News

Maritime expert sees challenges in PH Navy’s plan to save Filipinos in Libya

/ 04:22 PM August 06, 2018

The Philippine Navy’s (PN) announcement that it would deploy a task group to help rescue three Filipinos held captive in Libya presents a few challenges, according to a maritime expert.

The PN’s advantage is that two of its five most modern ships in the service — BRP Davao del Sur and BRP Andres Bonifacio — have participated in the US-led Rim of the Pacific (Rimpac) exercises that concluded last week in Hawaii, said Collin Koh, a specialist in regional naval affairs.


The two ships are expected to arrive in Manila sometime in the third or fourth week of August.

The PN is now capable to mount a rescue operation with the Del-Pilar patrol frigates and Tarlac-class strategic sealift vessels, which wasn’t possible in the past with its World War 2 flagship BRP Rajah Humabon.


“The Rimpac allowed it to build and test its long voyage capability, but that’s only two ships so far. The PN still has some way to go when it comes to building such type of ‘out of area’ operations in distant waters,” Koh told on Monday, saying the two ships might be the “ideal candidates” for the Libya operation.

“But the question is whether after completing such prolonged cruise to and from Hawaii the same ships and crews can be made ready for the job,” he said.

“If not, then chances would be to send relatively untested ships and crews for such long distance operations all the way to the Mediterranean, which is totally unfamiliar operating environment for the PN,” he added.

The task group would also have to stop at friendly ports along the way to refuel if without at sea replenishment capacity, the analyst said.

Another factor to consider is whether the task force will  arrive in time to make any real difference if the situation in Libya develops rapidly.

“Another likelihood is to tag team with a friendly power, or be part of a multinational coalition of warships for this purpose. Possibly with the ROK (Republic of Korea) Navy, which also dispatched a destroyer to the scene,” he pointed out.

Whether the Navy is capable to take part in a rescue operation in a foreign territory is another point to consider.


“Operational, political and legal considerations will have to be duly made in carrying out such missions and I’ll say it’ll be an unprecedented event for Manila, despite having gained a rich wealth of experience undertaking such operations against local insurgents so far,” he said.

‘Not a military option’

Last Friday, President Rodrigo Duterte said he would send a frigate to Libya if the abducted Filipinos were harmed.

The three Filipino workers and a South Korean were abducted by an unidentified armed group at a water project site in western Libya last July 6.

READ: Duterte to send warships to Libya if pirates hurt abducted Filipino engineers

South Korea has already dispatched its destroyer operating in the Gulf of Aden to help in the rescue. The location of the hostages remain unknown.

A senior Navy official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the details of the task force would be presented at a command conference with the President on Tuesday.

The official said the deployment would allow the Philippines to be a player on the world stage and on a regional level.

“We are showing [that] we are taking care of the people. We are showing that we are a responsible partner in the international community of like-minded nations,” he added.

But the DFA remains as the main agency in the rescue efforts, and the Navy would only play a support role, the official clarified.

READ: 1 Korean, 3 Filipinos held captive in Libya for nearly a month now

Last Saturday, Navy spokesperson Cmdr. Jonathan Zata said they are preparing an “appropriate force package” to ensure the safe release of the abducted Filipinos.

It also has directed its liaison officer Captain Donn Miraflor to coordinate with Philippine charge d’affaires to Tripoli Boy Melicor.

Defense spokersperson Dir. Arsenio Andolong said the Philippine military has done humanitarian and rescue operations overseas in the past, but none that is combat in nature.

“I’ve never heard of any (previous combat operations abroad)…We just can’t undertake operations on foreign soil,” he told reporters.

“I don’t think the Navy is thinking of a military option but they are preparing for contingencies. If the diplomatic track works, we have to evacuate the hostages,” he added. /ee

READ: Seoul sends warship to Libya to help rescue kidnapped Filipinos, Korean

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TAGS: BRP Andres Bonifacio, BRP Davao del Sur, Collin Koh, Filipinos held captive in Libya, Philippine Navy
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