Thursday, August 25, 2011

Briefer on the BRP Gregorio del Pilar

The latest addition to the Philippine Navy, BRP Gregorio del Pilar, formerly a Hamilton 378-foot High Endurance Cutter (WHEC) of the United States Coast Guard, arrived at Pier 13 of Manila’s South Harbor of Manila today and was inspected by President Benigno S. Aquino III. Its voyage from the United States took three weeks from Alameda Island, San Francisco, California.

Now the Philippine Navy’s largest vessel, BRP Gregorio del Pilar was laid down 1967 as the Hamilton, first of a class of 378-foot high endurance, Secretary Class (named after former Secretaries of the U.S. Treasury) cutter. Built primarily as a patrol ship for open ocean and long range operations, for decades they were the largest cutters in USCG inventory until the Polar Class cutters were laid down.

With a flight deck capable of landing a helicopter and a retractable hangar, these cutters were introduced to the U.S. Coast Guard inventory in the 1960s. Through the Fleet Rehabilitation and Modernization (FRAM) program that started in the 1980s ending in 1992 the entire class was modernized, which included the replacement of their original 5-inch (127 mm) gun with a much more modern 3-inch (76 mm) weapon.

The vessel was formally acquired by the Philippines last May 13 and is the first military acquisition of the Aquino administration through the Excess Defense Article (EDA) program of the United States. The BRP Gregorio del Pilar will be dry-docked, retrofitted, and given a fresh coat of paint showing the color gray of the Philippine Navy. The Navy expects to commission the ship after one month.

Established by the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 and the Arms Export Control Act of 1976, EDA allows defense articles declared as excess by the Military Department of the United States to be offered to support their allies in their modernization efforts. Through EDA, the Philippine Navy was able to acquire the Hamilton cutter and paid a transfer cost of Php 450 million which covered the transfer from U.S. Inventory to Philippine Inventory.

As reported in the Good News from Government Agencies (Vol. 1, issue 14) newsletter, the Department of Energy used its royalties from the Malampaya operations to fund the acquisition. The deep water vessel will be used to upgrade the defense posture of the Philippines as part of the AFP’s modernization program. Capable of staying at sea thirty days at a stretch without refueling, the BRP Gregorio del Pilar is equipped to respond to natural disasters and can be commissioned to undertake rescue operations in case of accidents in the exploration areas.

The vessel is named after the youngest Filipino general during the Philippine Revolution who famously gave up his life in the Battle of Tirad Pass, protecting the retreating party of President Emilio Aguinaldo.


Official Gazette of The Republic of the Philippines

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