PH Navy beefs up fleet amid sea row
The Philippine Navy has unveiled its latest and upcoming additions to its fleet as part of the military’s modernization program amid fresh concerns on the highly disputed South China Sea.
Missile-armed gunboats, a refurbished corvette, anti-submarine warfare helicopters and missile frigates are some of the expected assets to join the Navy fleet.
However, the Philippine Navy still has “a long, long way to become a strong Navy compared to its counterparts,” Navy Flag Officer in Command Vice Admiral Robert Empedrad said last Thursday.
“Your Navy has just acquired its first missile capability multi-purpose attack craft (MPAC) that will be made operational possibly in the third quarter. One corvette from the Republic of Korea is also expected to arrive later this year,” Empedrad said during a maritime symposium held in Manila.
The Navy chief was referring to the Spike ER missiles from Israel that arrived last month. It would be installed on locally made gunboats and will be launched in two to three months.
The Navy said these kinds of missiles have a maximum range of eight kilometers.
Empedrad mentioned Palawan and Zamboanga as possible deployments of the missile-equipped gunboats. Palawan is facing the South China Sea, where the Philippines have overlapping claims with its neighboring countries including China.
Zamboanga, meanwhile, is in southern Mindanao, facing threats from Islamist militants in nearby Basilan and Sulu.
The refurbished corvette from South Korea is expected sometime in the third quarter. Empedrad said they are still waiting for the release of the P250-million budget in June. The projected crew will fly to Korea and sail the ship back to the Philippines.
Anti-submarine warfare helicopters with torpedo capabilities are also expected to arrive in first quarter of next year. In 2020, the Philippine Navy will acquire its first of its two missile frigates it ordered from South Korea.
Vintage vessels of the Philippine Navy will be retired by 2020, Empedrad said.
The Navy chief stressed the need to boost the country’s naval fleet to secure a “maritime nation” with the fifth longest coastline and third most number of islands in the world.
“After the war, we were part of the three most capable and powerful navies in Asia. Today, we are one of the weakest navies in the region. Do you want to continue this way? Certainly not. But what complicates the matter is evolving security threats that undermine our well-being as a maritime nation,” he said.
Empedrad said that the acquisitions are aimed to boost the country’s defense capabilities in order to catch up with its neighbors.
“We cannot afford na maiwan tayo. We cannot afford to use a capability na nakakabit sa mga lumang barko natin. We have to grow as a Navy….It’s just for our defense. Kailangan kasi may capability din tayo e. Minsan pag dumadaan ka tapos may dumadaan din na barko na malakas na capability nakakahiya naman wala kang magagawa kung hindi kumaway na lang,” he said. /jpv
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