By Martin Sadongdong
Philippine Navy (PN) ships BRP Davao del Sur (LD602) and BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PS16) are finally back into the country after its mission in the Middle East in January 2020 and a series of unfortunate events.
The sailors and marines composing the Naval Task Force (NTF) 82 aboard the two ships entered Manila Bay on June 12 where they celebrated the 122nd Independence Day.
Lieutenant Commander Maria Christina Roxas, acting director of Naval public affairs officer, said the two ships sailed in formation with onboard personnel creating a human formation of figure “122.”
The photo exercise was captured from the embarked Agusta Westland 109 naval helicopter which also conducted flight deck operations, or its take-off and landing on BRP Davao Del Sur’s surface while the ship was in motion.
Marine Colonel Noel Beleran, commander of NTF 82, read the Independence Day message for the troops on behalf of General Felimon Santos Jr., Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
The NTF 82 is expected to be accorded a formal arrival honor at Pier 15 in Manila next week.
The crew will undergo swab testing while local health authorities are yet to determine if they will need to undergo the mandatory 14-day quarantine period, Roxas said.
Meanwhile, 30 Filipino repatriates from India and Sri Lanka already finished the required quarantine period. None of them exhibited symptoms for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
The Navy also provided the repatriates with interventions, counseling, and physical activities to uplift their morale and well-being during the voyage, Roxas said.
The two ships were deployed to Oman in January 2020 to fetch affected overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in the Middle East amid a heightened tension between Iran and United States following the killing of a top Iranian general.
When the tension eased, the vessels left Oman on April 21 and made a stop in India to pick up 18 stranded Filipinos and medical supplies donated by the Indian government for the Philippines’ COVID-19 response.
When the ships departed India on May 7 en route to the Philippines, the main engine room of BRP Ramon Alcaraz caught fire in the Indian Ocean, prompting it to return to the Port of Cochin for repair.
On the otuer hand, BRP Davao del Sur, resumed its voyage and already reached Sri Lanka on May 9 when it encountered a brewing storm in the Bay of Bengal and Adaman Sea, forcing it to also return to India.
After the repairs were finished on BRP Ramon Alcaraz, the two ships finally sailed back home together on May 27.