Philippine Navy flagship likely out of service until yearend

PH Navy flagship BRP Gregorio del Pilar (FF-15) runs aground near Hasa-Hasa Shoal (Half Moon Shoal) in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) on Aug. 29, 2018. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine Navy’s flagship BRP Gregorio del Pilar (FF-15), which ran aground in the West Philippine Sea in August last year, won’t likely be operational until the end of 2019, Navy chief Vice Adm. Robert Empedrad said.

The ship’s starboard propeller had been massively damaged when it ran aground on Hasa-Hasa Shoal (Half Moon Shoal) while on a patrol mission on Aug. 29. It was pulled out from the shoal after six days at sea.

Empedrad said the propeller that needs to be replaced would be coming from the US and this may take some time.

“Kailangan kasi makuha pa yung propellers galing pa sa US. Magiging available siya (FF-15) end of the year pa,” Empedrad told reporters on Tuesday when asked when the Navy flagship would be back in service.

“Kung mapapabilis yung pag-deliver ng propellers then maayos namin kaagad. But ang mag-cocontrol ng work is yung (availability) ng propellers. Nasira kasi yung dalawa kailangan palitan sa US lang nanggagaling,” he said.

The Navy chief said Del Pilar’s sister ships, BRP Ramon Alcaraz (FF-16) and BRP Andres Bonifacio (FF-17), all former US Coast Guard cutters, would fill in for FF-15’s patrol duties for the meantime.

Corvette from Korea

The long-overdue delivery of Pohang-class corvette ROKS Chungju donated by South Korea would also finally take place in March or April this year.

A Philippine Navy contingent will leave for South Korea later this month to start training for the upcoming acquisition.

“Okay lang naman yun dalawa, gumagana naman yung dalawa. And then this March makukuha na natin ung corvette from South Korea so baka madeliver na yun. Papunta na kasi yun personnel natin for training by January. So kung March or April matatapos, meron na tayong gagamitin,” Empedrad said.

The ship’s guns and sonar detection systems would be included in the transfer, he added.

New anti-sub helicopters, amphibious vehicles

In March, the Navy is also expecting two brand new anti-submarine helicopters and four out of eight new amphibious assault vehicles, the Navy chief said.

The two units of AgustaWestland (AW-15) Wildcat anti-submarine helicopters were acquired for P5.4 billion, while the eight AAVs from Hanhwa Techwin cost P2.4 billion. /jpv

READ: Misunderstanding feared after Del Pilar ran aground on shoal

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