By Martin Sadongdong
The Philippine Navy (PN) has moved to a later date the commissioning of the BRP Jose Rizal (FF150), its first ever missile-capable frigate, which was originally scheduled on June 19, the birthday of national hero Dr. Jose Rizal.
This, after the PN officially welcomed the frigate to its fleet in a traditional arrival ceremony held at the Alava Wharf in Subic, Zambales on Monday.
Lieutenant Commander Maria Christina Roxas, acting director of the Naval public affairs office, said the commissioning was postponed due to “unavoidable circumstances.”
Roxas might have been referring to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, which has also delayed the delivery of the frigate from its South Korean contractor, Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI), to the PN.
“A separate handover, christening and commissioning ceremony, originally scheduled on June 19, will be postponed to a later date due to unavoidable circumstances,” Roxas said in a statement on Tuesday.
Roxas said President Duterte is expected to attend the event as the guest of honor and speaker.
Nonetheless, Roxas said the addition of the frigate in the Navy’s current fleet inventory “provides a significant boost to the fulfillment of the PN`s thrust of having modern and multi-mission capable platform to conduct anti-surface, anti-air, anti-submarine and electronic warfare operations.”
The future BRP Jose Rizal has a maiden crew of 65 sailors headed by its first commanding officer, Captain Jerry Y. Garrido Jr.
The crew had just completed a two-week quarantine period after its delivery last month in adherence to strict health protocols.
Rear Admiral Loumer Bernabe, commander of Philippine Fleet, expressed his gratitude to all the officers and men of the frigate for their “efforts and perseverance in familiarizing the different systems of the ship through constant training and drills.”
He also conveyed his utmost appreciation to the HHI shipbuilder and the South Korean government for their support in the country’s endeavor to modernize the PN and bring home the vessel and its crew safe and secured.
“Together, let us bring our Navy to the next level, not only because of more modern ships, weapons and sensors but because of more competent and confident personnel, equipped with modern and disciplined mindsets,” Bernabe said.
Meanwhile, the personal protective equipment (PPE) carried by the vessel that was donated by the South Korean government and HHI on its turnover was formally handed over to the PN.
The said donation will be used to augment the country’s capacity in combatting the COVID-19 pandemic, Roxas said.