Navy boats readied for Pope visit
ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines—At the height of military action in Sulu and Basilan, five Philippine Navy vessels on Thursday left this city for repairs and training in preparation for next year’s five-day visit of Pope Francis.
Navy Capt. Giovanni Carlo Bacordo, deputy commander for Fleet Operations of Naval Forces Western Mindanao (NFWM), said the navy vessels will undergo repairs after being deployed to Mindanao for more than a year.
“Its personnel will undergo training, and as soon as they complete these requirements, they will be used to augment security of the Papal visit,” Bacordo said.
The vessels—the BRP Bagong Silang, BRP Leopoldo Regis, Diesel Fast (DF) 320, 322 and 323—along with 90 crew and officers were on their way to Cavite City.
Pope Francis is scheduled to visit Manila and typhoon-ravaged Tacloban City from Jan. 15 to 19.
Bacordo said the five vessels and personnel “will have to be in Tacloban to ensure that all the boats going to Tacloban would be inspected and the same goes for Manila.”
Gen. Rustico Guerrero, chief of the Western Mindanao Command, said that security plans implemented for the two provinces of Basilan and Sulu against the Abu Sayyaf would not be affected by the vessels’ pullout.
“This is a routine rotation as part of an annual navy maintenance and training cycle, so when they pull out ships there are replacements,” Guerrero said.
Rear Adm. Reynaldo Yoma, commander of Naval Forces Western Mindanao, said “faster and bigger boats are replacing the vessels.” Julie S. Alipala, Inquirer Mindanao
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