MANILA, Philippines - The second warship to be acquired by the Navy from the United States (US) is expected to arrive by February, Defense Secretary Voltraire Gazmin said Monday.
Gazmin said US Pacific Command chief Adm. Samuel Locklear III gave him the assurance of the second warship's delivery during their meeting in Hawaii early this month.
“Our new ship will be coming sometime next year, about February. I met with Admiral Locklear in Hawaii before I joined the trip of the president to Australia and New Zealand. He assured us that the ship will arrive by February 2013,” he said.
The scheduled arrival of BRP Ramon Alcaraz in February is a month later than the initial expectations.
During his state of the nation address last July, President Aquino said BRP Alcaraz was expected to reach Philippine shores by the end of January.
Gazmin said the BRP Alcaraz is “a better conditioned water craft” than the BRP Gregorio del Pilar, the first ship provided by the US last year.
“We have sailors undergoing training [on how to maneuver the ship] and they will be the ones who will bring the ship here from Charleston (South Carolina),” the defense chief said.
Last year, the government acquired its first Hamilton-class vessel from the US Coast Guard to enhance the military’s external defense capabilities.
The ship, which has been renamed BRP Gregorio del Pilar, has been deployed to the West Philippine Sea to secure energy projects in the area. It is now the Navy’s largest vessel.
The US, however, stripped the ship of some of its accessories before it was turned over to the Philippines.
Officials earlier said that the BRP Alcaraz, the second warship to be acquired from the US, would cost more than BRP del Pilar since the government had to buy weapons and accessories that were removed from the vessel.
The ship was named after Commodore Ramon Alcaraz, a Philippine Navy officer, who distinguished himself during the Second World War when the patrol boat he commanded shot down three Japanese aircraft.
BRP Alcaraz was largely used by the US Coast Guard for drug and migrant interdiction, law enforcement, search and rescue, living marine resources protection, and defense readiness. The ship can accommodate up to 180 officers and sailors.
Meanwhile, the military hailed the awarding of a contract for the purchase of modern weapons system for BRP Alcaraz.
Armed Forces spokesman Col. Arnulfo Burgos Jr. said the weapon system would boost their maritime security capabilities and enable them to guard the country’s territory.
“This acquisition will greatly and significantly contribute to the fulfillment of our mandate which is to protect the people and uphold the sovereignty and integrity of the national territory,” Burgos said.
“The system acquisition will definitely help us in the enforcement of maritime laws and support us in our fight against transnational crimes like drug trafficking, human trafficking human trafficking piracy illegal fishing and poaching,” he added.
On Sunday, the Philippine embassy in US announced that the Pentagon has awarded a $1.8 million contract for the purchase of modern weapons systems for BRP Alcaraz.
The purchase and installation of two Mk38 Mod 2 autocanon systems for the Alcaraz is part of a $24-million contract the Pentagon recently awarded to the Kentucky-based BAE Systems Land and Armaments Inc.
The contract, which is covered under the Foreign Military Sales Program, involves the purchase of 21 units of the remotely controlled naval gun systems and spare parts.
The new weapon systems are upgraded versions of the Mk38 M242 Bushmasters that were removed from BRP Alcaraz prior to its turnover to the Philippines. The remotely controlled chain gun system can fire as many as 180 25m rounds per minute at targets as far as two kilometers.