|BRP Gregorio del Pilar (PF-15)/Wikipedia|
MANILA, Philippines - A weather high-endurance ship and two naval helicopters would be the first items to be purchased using the P4.9 billion that was ordered released recently by President Aquino, the military said over the weekend.
Brig. Gen. Roy Deveraturda, Armed Forces deputy chief for plans and programs, said the high-endurance cutter and the two helicopters, which would be acquired from the US government, would be used to enhance the military’s territorial defense capabilities.
“The high-endurance cutter and the two multi-purpose helicopters will be used to secure our marine resources and our territory,” Deveraturda told The STAR over the weekend. The two multi-purpose naval helicopters would be subject to the regular bidding processes and are expected to complement the high-endurance ship to be acquired by the military since the vessel contains a hangar.
One helicopter would be placed on the ship to be purchased while the other one would complement the Hamilton-class cutter acquired recently by the Navy. “The helicopters would provide us flexibility when conducting patrols. These can also be used for search and rescue,” Deveraturda said.
Col. Arnulfo Burgos Jr., Armed Forces public affairs chief, said each helicopter would cost about P450 million, including equipment for search and rescue and safety of life at sea. The transfer cost of the high-endurance ship has yet to be determined.
Earlier, the government acquired a Hamilton-class vessel from the US Coast Guard to upgrade the military’s external defense capabilities. The ship, which has been renamed BRP Gregorio del Pilar, would be deployed to the West Philippine Sea to secure energy projects in the area.
The BRP Gregorio del Pilar is classified as a cutter, a high-speed vessel that can cut through waves.
The ship is the Navy’s first Hamilton-class cutter and is now its largest vessel. It was acquired under the US Foreign Military Sales program using proceeds from the Malampaya project funds. Its transfer cost has been pegged at P450 million while the operational cost for two years is estimated at P120 million.
The purchase of two naval helicopters is expected to improve the capabilities of the Naval Air Group, which badly needs new aircraft. A naval helicopter is an integral part of the weather high-endurance cutter as this would enable the military to conduct maritime air patrol operations.