By Francis Wakefield
Philippine Navy Chief Vice Admiral Robert A. Empedrad said that more visits to foreign countries will be undertaken by the PN particularly in 2019 following BRP Tarlac’s (LD601) successful historic visits to Vladivostok, Russia and to Jeju Island, Republic of Korea (ROK).
Empedrad made the assurance as the Philippine Navy (PN) rendered an arrival ceremony for the 300-man contingent onboard BRP Tarlac (LD601) following its arrival at Pier 15, South Harbor, Manila, on Monday afternoon.
“With the outstanding accomplishment that you have completed or have performed, I would like to assure you that many more visits to foreign countries will be undertaken by the PN particularly next year,” Empedrad said.
“As we modernize the Philippine Navy, what you have shown to us in the past month is indeed a manifestation that we are now ready to acquire more modern ships, more modern equipment as we move forward to our vision of becoming a strong and credible navy that our maritime nation will be proud of,” he added.
Prior to its arrival to the country, BRP Tarlac departed from Cruise Pier, Jeju Island, Republic of Korea on October 16 to return home after a month-long overseas mission.
The 300-man contingent led by Capt. Florante N. Gagua, commander of the Naval Task Force (NTF) 87, left Korea at around 10:30 a.m. (local time).
Their visit to South Korea is the fourth International Defense and Security Engagement (IDSE) activity that was conducted by the Philippine Navy this year.
Send more ships
Empedrad assured that the PN has the capability to send ships not only to Russia, but also to China and to Hawaii, USA for more visits.
“Meron naman tayong (We have the) capability. We have seven capable ships that can go to China, to Russia, can go to Hawaii. So if invited by the Russian Federation, we will surely sent ships anytime,” Empedrad said.
Just last week, the PN rendered a send-off ceremony for the 300-man contingent onboard BRP Dagupan City which departed for Zhangjiang, China to participate in the first maritime exercise between China and the ASEAN Navies from October 21 to 28.
ACMEX 2018, which will be hosted by the Royal Singapore Navy and the China’s People Liberation Army, Navy (PLA-N), aims to promote military exchanges and cooperation between ASEAN member-states (AMS) navies and China PLA focusing on maritime safety and search and rescue at sea with emphasis on the use of Code of Unplanned Encounter at Sea (CUES).
Empedrad said that after China, one of their ships will also travel to Japan later this year.
“It’s a visit and kukunin natin yung (we will get the) spare parts and some munitions of the Philippine Air Force… In Japan later this year,” he said.
Welcome to return to Russia
Meanwhile. Russian Ambassador to the Philippines Igor A. Khovaev, said Philippine Navy ships are most welcomed to visit any parts of Russia.
“I would like to take this opportunity to ensure all of you that Philippine Navy ships are always most welcomed in any part of Russia. So please, it’s time to gp to Russia, to discover Russia,” Khovaev said.
“And I would like to fully support the Honorable Vice Admiral (Empedrad). He just said the Philippine Navy sailors and Marines, they are the best ambassadors for the nation. Yes, it’s true. Your navy sailors and marines are the best possible ambassadors of your nation in Vladivostok in Russia because they help make Russian people discover your country, your nation and it’s a great contribution to our partnership and friendship. I am saying once again, Philippine Navy ships are always most welcome in Russia,” he added.
Not pushing ships too hard
In the same interview, Empedrad shrugged off the notion or thinking by some that they are pushing their ships too hard with its successive visits overseas.
Empedrad admitted that one of BRP Tarlac’s engines bogged down while on its way to Vladivostok, Russia,
He said with the help of the Republic of Korea, they were able to purchase spare parts needed by the ship.
“No, mali ang thinking na ganoon (They are wrong to think that way). Wala ako plano na magkaroon ng barko na nakatali sa pier (I don’t have any plans of having ships just staying at a pier),” Empedrad said.
“I would like our ships to be moving always at sea for the training of personnel. Kaya nga barko iyan para tumakbo, hindi para tumali (That’s why it’s a ship for it to run, not just to be tied). And our role is to protect our vast maritime nation, our vast maritime waters so kailangan tumatakbo lagi ang barko natin (our ships need to always move) for training para maging expert ang ating mga personnel (so our personnel become expert) in doing their job,” he added.
Empedrad said that for as long they continue properly maintaining the ships, there is no cause for concern.
Because of engine trouble, BRP Tarlac had to stay in Vladivostok, Russia for an additional two days, delaying their arrival at Jeju Island, South Korea for one day.
“Yes, but one day lang naman late (They were only late for one day) and they were able to attend all the other activities in connection with the international fleet review,” he said.
Captain Guagua said BRP Tarlac specifically sustained trouble in the fuel pump.
“Actually, we can run (as) we (have) an alternate pump but for safety the command advise me not to go with the alternate pump,” he said.