The Philippine Navy (PN) is seeking to strengthen its maritime force in Palawan to protect the country’s interests in the West Philippine Sea (WPS), a ranking military official bared Tuesday, May 18.
Rear Admiral Alberto Carlos, commander of the Philippine Fleet, said the acquisition of more assets under the Revised Armed Force of the Philippines Modernization Program (RAFPMP) “Horizon” 2 is ongoing to replace the old and decommissioned “legacy” ships with modern ones.
“Ang huling direktiba po sa atin ay palakasin ang pwersa sa karagatan natin sa Palawan area, WesCom AOR [Western Command area of responsibility] at magdeploy ng karagdagang sasakyang pandagat (The latest directive to us is to strengthen our maritime force in Palawan area, WesCom AOR and deploy additional sea vessels),” Carlos said in a virtual “Laging Handa” press briefing.
The latest acquisitions of the Philippine Navy under the AFP modernization program were the two missile-capable frigates BRP Jose Rizal (FF-150) and BRP Antonio Luna (FF-151) which were commissioned into service in July 2020 and March 2021, respectively.
Just last March 1, the Navy retired four legacy ships –the fast attack craft BRP Salvador Abcede (PC-114) and BRP Emilio Liwanag (PC-118), and corvettes BRP Quezon (PS-70) and BRP Pangasinan (PS-31). The fast attack craft were commissioned by the PN in 1996 and 2011 while the corvettes became part of the PN’s offshore combat force in 1948 and 1967.
“Marami pa ang nasa pipeline na sinuportahan ng national leadership pero hindi na ako magbigay ng specific sa capability program. Ang ating strength and weaknesses ayaw natin ilabas para ‘yong ating kaibigan they can second guess our capabilities (We have a lot more in the pipeline that were supported by the national leadership but I will no longer give the specifics of our capability program. We don’t want to bare our strengths and weaknesses so that our friends can second guess our capabilities),” Carlos said.
Meanwhile, the Navy officer said they are also improving their ship repair program to shorten the period where a vessel needs to stay at the shipyard for maintenance and repair.
“Ang aming number one short term goal ay to deploy more ships. Napakarami pong demand for the deployment of more naval assets all over the country kaya pinapabilis po namin ang aming turnaround time (Our number one short term goal is to deploy more ships. We have a big demand for the deployment of more naval assets all over the country so we are improving our turnaround time),” he said.
“Hindi naman po posible na 100 percent nandoon ang barko. Kailangan ibalik sa ating yarda upang i-repair, i-maintain at palakasin lalo. Ang aming objective is paikliin ang turnaround time (It is not possible that our ships are deployed 100 percent of the time. We need to return them to our shipyard for repair, maintenance, and to further strengthen them. Our objective is to shorten our turnaround time),” he added.
This could be deemed crucial as more Chinese ships were seen returning to the West Philippine Sea and the country’s 370-km exclusive economic zone (EEZ) recently.
The National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) said last week that at least 287 Chinese maritime militia vessels were dispersed in the country’s maritime features in the WPS, including in the areas covered by the Kalayaan municipality in Palawan.