MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) will be getting its largest and most modern ship yet, which will be deployed to areas where the country’s maritime security is challenged.
In a statement, the PCG announced Wedneday, July17, the launch of its first ever Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV) at the OCEA shipyard in France, which it plans to send to the West Philippine Sea, Benham (Philippine) Rise, and southern seas facing threats from pirates and terrorists.
The P5.59 billion vessel will be commissioned as Barko Republika ng Pilipinas (BRP) Gabriela Silang and is expected to arrive in Manila in early December.
At 83.6 meters long, the vessel can accommodate 64 crew members. It has a maximum speed of 20 knots or 37.04 km/h, and can stay out at sea for up to 22 days without replenishing.
It will be the PCG’s first vessel to run on a hybrid of diesel and electricity.
The OPV features a mission management system (MMS) that optimizes communications and surveillance capabilities, and enables comprehensive coordination with other units, including the ship’s two onboard 9-meter Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats. It is designed to withstand rough conditions at sea, and is not easily detectable by radar.
The vessel also boasts anti-pollution equipment, a survivor room for rescued persons, and a Hyperbaric Chamber for treating diving sickness.
The contract for the OPV, along with 4 Fast Patrol Boats delivered earlier, was signed in 2014. Funding was secured in 2017 through an agreement with BNP Paribas, a French banking group.
The PCG has long been outpaced by foreign vessels plying the West Philippine Sea, and even by the China Coast Guard in areas like Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal off Zambales.
Government efforts to grow the coast guard’s patrol fleet come as the country grapples with the increasing number of foreign vessels venturing into its exclusive economic zone and territorial waters. – Rappler.com
JC Gotinga often reports about the West Philippine Sea, the communist insurgency, and terrorism as he covers national defense and security for Rappler. He enjoys telling stories about his hometown, Pasig City. JC has worked with Al Jazeera, CNN Philippines, News5, and CBN Asia.