Fire-hit PH Navy ship to extend stay in India for 3 weeks for repairs
MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine Navy patrol ship BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PS-16) that caught fire recently will undergo repairs in India for almost a month before it sails back to the Philippines.
“Per our estimate, she will stay there for an additional 21 days to complete the repairs,” Navy chief Vice Adm. Giovanni Carlo Bacordo said in an interview with DZBB on Sunday.
He said the downtime could have been shorter if not for the lockdown implemented in India due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“If not for the quarantine situation…maybe this will only go on for one week. Based on the timeline given to us, she will complete her repairs in 21 days, including the endurance tests,” Bacordo said.
The U.S. Navy’s Naval Sea Systems Command will assist in repairing the BRP Ramon Alcaraz because it was acquired from the U.S.
Fire struck the main engine room of the ship on Thursday evening, about five hours after it had left the port of India. Sailors were able to put out the fire in 10 minutes.
Bacordo said there was “just a leakage of lube oil,” where it hit a hot surface, causing the fire.
“I’m very happy that our sailors are so alert that they were able to respond immediately,” he said.
Two enlisted personnel suffered injuries but are now in stable condition.
F2EN (Fireman Second Class Engineman) Alvin Aldecoa, who sustained superficial burns, is recovering aboard the BRP Ramon Alcaraz while F2MR (Fireman Second Class Machinery Repairman) Joemari Bag-o, who suffered second-degree burns, was airlifted to a burn treatment facility at the Sanjivani Naval Hospital in INS Southern Naval Command.
Bacordo said 40 percent of Bag-o’s body was burned — mostly on his back and parts of his face.
The BRP Ramon Alcaraz belongs to the Gregorio del Pilar-class of vessels, a group of three former Hamilton-class U.S. Coast Guard ships acquired by the Philippine Navy. Its sister ship, the BRP Gregorio del Pilar, ran aground while on routine patrol in the West Philippine Sea in 2018 and is currently undergoing repairs and upgrade.
Before the fire, the BRP Ramon Alcaraz was en route to the Philippines, together with landing dock vessel BRP Davao del Sur (LD-602).
The ships stopped by India last week to pick up donated face masks and tourists who were stranded by the travel bans enforced to contain the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
In a separate statement, the Navy said the extended stay of the BRP Ramon Alcaraz at the port will also provide “ample time for the recovery of the injured sailors” and will allow more time to haul the 800,000 donated face masks.
The BRP Davao del Sur is now on its way back to the Philippines, bringing home 200,000 donated face masks and Filipino tourists stranded in India. It is expected to arrive in Manila on May 23.
The Philippine government deployed the two ships to Oman last January to help repatriate overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), who would want to return home following the assassination by the United States of top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani, which drove tensions close to a full-blown war in the Middle East.
Tensions have eased in recent months and OFWs have opted not to return to the Philippines. The ships, however, were ordered by higher Philippine authorities to remain. It stayed in Oman for almost three months and finally left on April 21.
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