New Navy assets helpful to West PH Sea troops
Increased assets of the Philippine Navy have been helpful in improving the conditions of the Marines and soldiers stationed in Ayungin Shoal (Second Thomas Shoal) in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
Newly installed Western Command chief Rear Adm. Ronald Joseph Mercado said the new ships meant there were more resupply missions in the lonely outpost aboard the BRP Sierra Madre, a grounded ship in the Ayungin Shoal.
“Dati because of the limitations of the number of ships, I think dati ’yung frequency mga once every three months. Ngayon nakabili na, meron na tayong mga Del-Pilar class frigates, mga within 45 days there is a ship that is navigating in those waters,” he told reporters on Thursday.
China, however, has been making the resupply missions in the shoal difficult. There have been earlier reports of harassment of fishermen and ships trying to get near the shoal.
But Mercado said they have not recently received reports of harassment by the Chinese in the disputed shoal, which is within the Philippine exclusive economic zone (200 kilometers from Palawan) but China also claims as its own.
Under the administration of President Benigno Aquino III, the Philippine Navy was able to acquire two Hamilton-class cutters from the United States, which eventually became Del-Pilar class. The BRP Gregorio del Pilar is the Navy’s flagship.
It also acquired five naval choppers, three multipurpose attack craft and two landing craft heavy vessels from Australia.
On Wednesday, the Navy acquired three more landing craft heavy vessels and its first landing dock vessel, the BRP Tarlac, their largest ship to date.
“As compared before, they always have fresh supplies and when they need something we are able to provide their request,” Mercado said.
“With more assets that we have right now, ’yung mga malalaki we now have vessels that are able to withstand sea conditions dun sa area na ’yun,” he added.
Navy chief Rear Adm. Caesar Taccad on Wednesday took pride how the Philippine Navy was “a far cry from the old, decrepit Navy that we once were.”
He thanked Aquino for supporting their capability programs, saying that the Navy today is poised for modernization and “a strong and credible Navy is at hand.”
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