MANILA, Philippines — The country’s biggest warship has entered Philippine territory, the Philippine Navy announced on Wednesday.
The BRP Gregorio del Pilar, which the government bought from the United States Coast Guard for P450 million last May, entered Philippine area of responsibility at around 1 p.m. and is presently 273 nautical miles east of Samar, and is expected to pass the San Bernardino Strait off Bicol region.
Navy spokesman Lt. Col. Omar Tonsay said the ship will anchor off Manila Bay on August 21, Sunday, for customs, immigration, and quarantine inspection; an arrival and welcome ceremony will be held at the Manila South Harbor.
BRP del Pilar is manned by 13 officers and 82 enlisted personnel under the command of Capt. Alberto A Cruz. It is the largest in the inventory of the Philippine Navy and will be deployed to patrol Philippine territorial waters and the Exclusive Economic Zone after a repainting.
The BRP del Pilar is a Hamilton-class High-Endurance Cutter and is 378 feet long and 42 feet wide. It is powered by two diesel engines and two gas turbines. The gas turbines are made up of 1,800 horsepower engines that can propel the vessel up to a speed of 28 knots, while the two 3,500 horsepower diesel engines that can take her to a speed of 17 knots without refueling for 9,600 nautical miles.
The Cutter is armed with a 76mm gun mount controlled by an MK92 Fire Control System. She was designed to undertake long range search and rescue operations, oceanographic research and law enforcement-defense operations. It has a hangar and a flight deck capable of handling helicopter operations.
The BRP del Pilar left Alameda, California last July 18.
The purchase of the warship is part of the Philippine efforts to strengthen its naval capabilities as the tension among countries with claims over some islands and islets in the South China Sea (also known as West Philippine Sea) has escalated over the past few months.