PH Navy's 3rd warship from US set to sail home
MANILA, Philippines – The third warship acquired by the Philippine Navy from the US, the BRP Andres Bonifacio (FF17), is set to depart California for Manila on Tuesday, November 1 (US time).
"November 1, US time, is the estimated time of departure of FF17 in the condition that the weather is favorable," said Captain Lued Lincuna, director of the Philippine naval public affairs office.
It will sail for 26 days, with stopovers in San Diego, Hawaii, and Guam for fuel and supplies.
"FF17 is a significant addition to the Navy's inventory of ships in order to boost the conduct of territorial patrol missions within our exclusive economic zone," Lincuna said.
The newly-decomissioned US Coast Guard ship CGC Boutwell will improve the navy's capability to patrol the country's exclusive economic zone. The first two warships of similar class are often deployed to the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) in tandem with brand new naval choppers.
Lincuna said the FF17 can also be used for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief and search and rescue operations.
US President Barack Obama announced the transfer of the 3rd warship during his visit to Manila last year, when he toured the first coast guard ship – the BRP Gregorio del Pilar (FF15) – that the Philippine Navy acquired from the US.
The Navy acquired all 3 warships under the previous Aquino administration, which poured money to modernize the military as it aggressively protested China's sweeping claims in the West Philippine Sea.
Del Pilar arrived in 2012, followed by BRP Ramon Alcaraz (FF16) in 2013, acquired through the US Excess Defense Articles (EDA) program. The Philippines paid for their refurbishments and additional weapons.
The 3 Hamilton-class cutters, renamed Del Pilar class by the Philippine Navy, are high-endurance cutters capable of extended patrols and can withstand heavy weather and rough seas. They were previously the largest cutters of the US Coast Guard until they were recently replaced by the National Security Cutter class.
They are currently the navy's most capable warships pending the construction and delivery of two brand new frigates from South Korea.
The latest warship from the US will arrive in the country as the Duterte administration continues to track an "independent foreign policy" that seeks to distance the Philippines from its oldest and most powerful ally, the US, and to forge closer ties with China and Russia. (READ: Duterte announces military, economic split from the US)
President Rodrigo Duterte's rants against the US have been criticized even by those who supported his presidency, including former president Fidel Ramos, and have become a cause of concern among netizens.
Based on the results of a Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey conducted in September, a majority of Filipinos do not share Duterte's sentiments towards China and the United States. (READ: Most Filipinos don't share Duterte's trust in China, distrust vs US) – Rappler.com