2 tugboats sent to tow Navy ship
Two tugboats from a private firm are expected to arrive on Monday to extricate the Navy’s BRP Gregorio del Pilar, which ran aground at Hasa-Hasa Shoal in the West Philippine Sea.
Help of local firm
The Navy flag officer in command, Vice Adm. Robert Empedrad, said that while the country had not refused assistance from China, South Korea, United States and our Southeast Asian neighbors in retrieving the frigate, securing the help of a local firm was “the fastest” way to salvage the ship and return it to safe harbor.
The BRP Gregorio del Pilar is the lead ship of its class and is one of the three former US Coast Guard Hamilton class cutters acquired in 2011 under the US Excess Defense Articles and the Foreign Assistance Act.
The BRP Gregorio del Pilar ran aground on Wednesday last week in the vicinity of Hasa-Hasa Shoal.
Efforts to retrieve the fast frigate are underway while investigation is being conducted on its grounding.
Empedrad explained that it was necessary to tap the services of a private company with an “experience to salvage ships that are grounded especially big vessels” because neither the Navy nor the Coast Guard had tugboats.
Many offers to help
He clarified that two Coast Guard ships and two Navy vessels were deployed to the vicinity of Hasa-Hasa Shoal to provide security and assistance to the BRP Gregorio del Pilar crew, none of whom were hurt when the ship ran aground.
Empedrad assured “the ship is intact, the crew are safe, and we are on top of the situation.”
He said there were many countries that had offered their help, but “we want us to extricate the ship … If we wait for assistance from other countries, it will take a long time.”
“We have companies in the Philippines which have tugboats and are experts in salvaging ships that have ran aground … It’s the fastest [way] … [We can’t risk the vessel] getting caught in a tropical cyclone or low pressure area because that would make it very tough for the ship,” the Navy commander pointed out.
He said that the extrication process might take a week or two because the safest way of removing the ship would have to be undertaken.