By Martin Sadongdong
The Philippine Navy decommissioned on Wednesday two ships that have served the country for several decades as it sets its sights on training its personnel to operate new and upcoming assets.
Vice Admiral Robert Empedrad, Navy Flag Officer in Charge, said BRP Rizal (PS74) and BRP Nicolas Mahusay (PC119) were formally retired from service in a decommissioning ceremony held at Captain Salvo Pier, Naval Base Heracleo Alano in Sangley Point, Cavite City.
Empedrad thanked the crew and personnel of the two naval ships for their dedication to serve the country by patrolling and securing Philippine waters.
Considered an ex-World War II ship, BRP Rizal served the Navy for 54 years after it was acquired by the Philippines from the United States in 1965.
Prior to its retirement, BRP Rizal was regarded one of the oldest active fighting ships in the world, as per the Navy’s archives.
Its designed speed was 20 knots but it has since decreased to 10 to 12 knots. Before, it could operate at sea for 20 days but in later years it could only last seven days.
Meanwhile, BRP Nicolas Mahusay served the Navy for 22 years after it was transferred by the South Korean government to the Philippines in 1998.
Its designed speed is 25 to 30 knots, but this had since decreased to 14 knots due to its age.
Empedrad said the decommissioning of the BRP Rizal, a patrol corvette (small warship), and BRP Nicolas Mahusay, a patrol killer medium gunboat, will enable them to utilize and train its crew and personnel in handling new assets that are set to arrive in the country in mid-2020.
Among the new assets are the Navy’s first pair of missile-capable frigates, the BRP Jose Rizal and its sister ship, BRP Antonio Luna, which are expected to arrive in April and September respectively.
Rear Admiral Giovanni Bacardo, commander of the Navy’s Philippine Fleet, said it is important to retire the old ships so that the crew may be trained to man the arriving assets.
“This is part of the phase in, phase out program of the Navy,” he said. “While we are phasing in new assets, we have to phase out also the old vessels. Where will you get the personnel to man these new assets? You have to get them from the old assets.”
Empedrad earlier said a Navy contingent will be sent to South Korea for training so that when the new frigates arrive, there will be personnel who are knowledgeable in operating and maintaining the assets.
Bacardo said the Navy is “little by little” removing legacy ships and World War 2 vintage assets from its inventory, to be replaced by modern ones. “By the first semester of 2021, all of our ships are already modern.”
After being decommissioned, the two ships will undergo inventory to determine which of its parts, such as guns and radar, are still functioning and good enough to be equipped on to the new assets.
The ships will then be turned over to the Naval Logistics Center for disposal.