MANILA, Philippines - The second Hamilton-class patrol ship that will be acquired from the US would also be deployed to the West Philippine Sea area to secure the country’s natural resources, the Navy said yesterday.
Navy spokesman Lt. Col. Omar Tonsay said the ship, which may be transferred to the Philippines by the first or second quarter of 2012, would also guard the energy projects in Malampaya off Palawan.
He said the acquisition of the ship from the US will improve the military’s maritime defense capability. “It (acquisition) will boost our external defense and it will add to our desired fleet of Hamilton-class vessels,” Tonsay said. A Navy inspection team, led by Navy Vice Commander Rear Adm. Orwen Cortez, was sent to South Carolina last week to inspect the US Coast Guard vessel being eyed for acquisition.
The team conducted the inspection from Oct. 31 to Nov. 5 as part of the Navy’s continued efforts to upgrade naval capability. In a statement, Tonsay said the team inspected the US Coast Guard cutter Dallas, which would be acquired through the US Excess Defense Articles project.
The inspection involved orientation tours, preliminary transfer discussions, and ship’s organization and mission briefings. “An in-depth inspection of the entire ship, examination of the actual equipment on board, and checking of machinery records were also conducted to ensure the actual status of the ship,” Tonsay said.
He said the Navy team and the US Coast Guard discussed matters pertaining to the transfer of the ship to Manila. “These (matters) include the readiness status of the vessel where it was determined to be mission ready and is expected to be a hot transfer,” Tonsay said.
“This means that the ship is still very much in active service in the US and will be decommissioned only to effect its transfer to the Philippines,” he added. The US Coast Guard cutter Dallas is a weather high-endurance cutter and has features similar to the BRP Gregorio del Pilar, the first Hamilton-class cutter acquired by the Navy from the US Coast Guard.
The US Coast Guard had used the ship for drug and migrant interdiction, law enforcement, search and rescue, living marine resources protection, and defense readiness.
It is powered by diesel engines and gas turbines and is re-equipped with a helicopter flight deck, a retractable hangar, and facilities to support helicopter operations. The ship can accommodate up to 180 officers and sailors.
Earlier, the government acquired its first 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, was deployed at the West Philippine Sea to secure energy projects. The vessel is expected to be commissioned this month.
The transfer cost for the Gregorio del Pilar has been pegged at P450 million. It was acquired under the US Foreign Military Sales program using proceeds from the Malampaya project funds.
The Gregorio del Pilar is classified as a cutter, a high-speed vessel that can cut through waves. The ship is now the Navy’s largest vessel. The 380 feet-long vessel was turned over by the US Coast Guard to Philippine officials in California last May 13. It arrived in Philippine territory last Aug. 17.