SUBIC BAY, Philippines – President Benigno Aquino III on Tuesday said the acquisition of a second warship by the Philippines will boost the Navy’s ability to patrol and defend the country’s waters.
Aquino expressed confidence that the BRP Alcaraz, the “newest and modern ship” the country has acquired, will fulfill the government’s aim to have an Armed Forces capable of defending the country and the Filipino people.
“Now that the BRP Alcaraz is here, it will definitely boost our patrols around the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone and our ability to quell threats and dangerous elements, respond to search and rescue operations, and needs of our marine resources,” Aquino said in Filipino as he welcomed the arrival of the 45-year-old former US Coast Guard Hamilton-class cutter at the Alava Wharf here.
Aquino recounted the ship’s “historic and symbolic” journey from the United States, passing through Pearl Harbor and Guam, and the heroes behind this journey.
It is in this light that the President challenged the troops of the Philippine Navy to live up to the courage exemplified by those who lived before them.
“So this is my challenge to the Philippine Navy and to the troops that will be on this ship: Live up to the courage and determination of the Filipinos who did not hesitate to offer their sweat and blood for their fellowmen. Just think of Commodore Ramon Alcaraz in World War II: Nine Zero fighters of the Japanese against his Q-boat that is made of wood, and yet he was able to shoot three of the nine and successfully got back his boat. That means, they may be ill-equipped, the odds may be to their disadvantage and yet they did not back down on the enemy,” Aquino said.
Some of the high-ranking officials who attended were Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto del Rosario, outgoing US Ambassador Harry Thomas, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and Armed Forces Chief of Staff General Emmanuel Bautista.
The country’s new warship, a secondhand Hamilton-class frigate, was named after Alcaraz.
Alcaraz was a member of the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1940, and was said to be one of the pioneers of the Philippine Navy.
One of his most famous exploits was when he took down three of the nine Japanese Zeros on January 17, 1942.
“Commodore Alcaraz was able to do the impossible because he was aware that nobody can defend our nation but ourselves,” Aquino added.
“We cannot deny that BRP Gregorio del Pilar- our first Hamilton-class cutter– has been a great help for the Philippine Navy to do its job. Because of this, they were able to endure longer and faster in patrolling our waters. And because BRP Alcaraz is here, we will be able to intensify patrolling our Philippine exclusive economic zone and its ability to defend from enemies, conduct search and rescue operations, and take care of our maritime environment,” he said.
Before Del Pilar and Alcaraz, the Pilippines had only one gun frigate, the BRP Rajah Humabon which is about 70 years old.
The cost of refurbishments and training, repair and engine replacement of Alcaraz cost about P600 million.
Alcaraz, with 88 crew on board, left the United States after 14 months of training on June 10 and arrived in the Philippines on August 2. She will be re-painted before she gets commissioned by the Philippine Navy around October.
Aquino added that these positive results inspired the government to pursue modernization in the armed forces.
“We are erasing the image that we are ill-equipped and a poor armed forces,” Aquino said.
The Philippine Navy used to be one of the best in the region during the 1960s, but slowly deteriorated to one of the weakest forces in Asia.
The President also thanked the United States, for its continuing aid throughout the country’s long history.
The BRP Alcaraz is the Philippines’ second warship, following BRP Gregorio del Pilar’s acquisition in 2011. Both are Hamilton-class cutters decommissioned from the US Coast Guard.