By Martin Sadongdong
All vessels of the military’s Western Command have been mobilized in the operation to remove Philippine Navy (PN) flagship BRP Gregorio del Pilar which ran aground in Hasa-Hasa (Half Moon) Shoal in Palawan Wednesday night.
Col. Noel Detoyato, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesman, said Friday the vessels of Western Command area have been ordered to sail to Hasa-Hasa to assist in retrieving the Gregorio del Pilar.
Detoyato said the frigate ran aground in the shoal about 60 nautical miles off Rizal, Palawan, while on routine patrol in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).
The cause of the incident still has to be established since the retrieval of the ship is the primary concern, Detoyato said.
“As of now, we are concentrating on the retrieval and the morale of the troops who are on board. We will just conduct the investigation after it is retrieved,” he said in a television interview.
Damage to the ship was “very minimal,” he said, and no casualty or injury has so far been reported.
The Gregorio del Pilar, which weighs 3,250 tons and is 378 feet long, was expected to be towed within the next 24 hours barring unforeseen problems.
In a separate military report, the AFP said the vessel was grounded “from bow to amidship,” and the propellers were also damaged.
“An investigation is expected in such situations to find out the possible causes of the grounding and to come up with steps to ensure that similar incidents will be prevented,” Detoyato said.
The Gregorio del Pilar is a former US Coast Guard cutter that was donated to the Philippine Navy in 2011, along with the BRP Ramon Alcaraz and BRP Andres Bonifacio.
It has since been transformed into a frigate powered by two diesel and two gas turbine engines.
Hasa-Hasa Shoal is in the disputed waters in the West Philippine Sea or South China Sea being claimed by the Philippines.