By Martin Sadongdong
PIER 15, South Harbor – Kapal perang Republik Indonesia (KRI, Naval Vessel of the Republic of Indonesia) “Bima Suci” (945), an Indonesian training ship, docked in Manila on Monday for a four-day goodwill visit aimed at strengthening further the relations between the two Southeast Asian countries.
Commander Jeffrey Magbanua, executive officer of the Assistant Chief of Naval Staff for Civil-Military Operations, led the Philippine Navy (PN) delegates in according a warm welcome to the 192-member Indonesian Navy contingent led by Lieutenant Colonel Waluyo, commanding officer of the KRI Bima Suci.
“The presence of this Indonesian Navy vessel, led by Lt. Col Waluyo and its 103 Indonesia Naval Cadets and 89 officers and crew contingent, underscores the relationship between our government and navies,” Magbanua said.
“This trumpets the Philippine Navy’s commitment in promoting naval diplomacy and camaraderie and fostering goodwill with our Indonesian Navy counterparts,” he added.
The Philippines and Indonesia have established a long history of defense cooperation.
Since the establishment of diplomatic ties in 1949, Indonesia has been one of the closest allies of the Philippines and the Philippine Navy. Both countries have supported each other’s policies in the region such as democracy and the rule of law in the South China Sea.
In fact, a trilateral maritime cooperation agreement on border security was finalized in Kuala Lumpur in 2018 among the Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia to prevent lawless elements such as pirates, smugglers, and foreign and local terrorists from using the southern backdoor as their entry and exit points to and from the three countries.
“We know that in the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations), we have so many issues regarding our maritime sector such as piracy, areas dispute, and fisheries,” Waluyo stated.
“The cooperation is part of Indonesia’s commitments to participate in maintaining security in Southeast Asia which focuses on capacity building in supporting the peace missions and maintaining border and maritime securities,” he said.
Waluyo, however, refused to comment on the sea dispute in the South China Sea involving the Philippines and China as he maintained that the goal of the goodwill visit was to promote naval diplomacy.
The KRI Bima Suci is a three-mast barque tall ship which is regarded as one of the largest tall ships in the world with a 36,200 sq. ft. of sails, and a capacity for a crew of 200.
Named after a Javanese hero who was a “symbol of force, bravery, and righteousness,” KRI Bima Suci is the Indonesian Navy’s newest and largest sail training ship which is equipped with a series of “extremely sophisticated navigation and communication tools and a reverse osmosis water supply.”
A series of confidence-building activities were prepared for the Indonesian naval cadets and crew of the Bima Suci while they are docked in Manila, including cultural and sports exchange, goodwill games, pre-coordination meeting, ship tour, reciprocal receptions, and courtesy calls.
Aside from that, Waluyo and his party were also scheduled to pay a courtesy call on Vice Admiral Robert Empedrad, Philippine Navy’s Flag Officer in Command.
The Philippine Navy said that this was the second time the KRI Bima Suci visited the Philippines, with the first visit taking place on October 2018.
The KRI Bima Suci will depart on Thursday, August 15 and a designated Philippine Navy vessel will conduct a “passing exercise” (PASSEX) with the departing vessel.