7 ageing PH Navy ships, too costly to maintain, to retire in 2021

by Inquirer | Feb 12, 2021

MANILA, Philippines—The Philippine Navy is setting its sights on decommissioning at least seven ships in 2021, because these are no longer economical to maintain.

On March 1, the Navy will retire BRP Quezon (PS-70), BRP Pangasinan (PS-31), BRP Salvador Abcede (PC-114), and BRP Emilio Liwanag (PC-118), according to Philippine Fleet Commander Rear Admiral Loumer Bernabe. He said it was part of the Navy’s phase-in, phase-out program which calls for the retirement of old vessels as new ones come in.

The BRP Quezon is a former Auk-class minesweeper of the US Navy, while BRP Pangasinan, a Malvar-class corvette, was a former patrol craft of the US Navy.

Littoral combat ships BRP Abcede and BRP Emilio Liwanag are Tomas Batilo-class patrol craft acquired from South Korea.

Three more vessels are marked for retirement within the year, Bernabe said.

The ships needed to be retired due to their age as they have been in service for nearly 50 years, or almost half-a-century.

“We need to phase out these vintage and WWII vessels whose average age ranges from 40-50 years old. The vessels’ spare and repair parts are obsolete and not economical to maintain,” Bernabe said.

Replacement ships are expected to arrive in two to three years, but the Navy does not see the decommissioning having a major impact on operations.

“These ageing vessels are down for maintenance most of the time and eating a lot of our maintenance funds. We can already divert our funds in the acquisition of new and more efficient platforms,” Bernabe said.

“Considering the age of these vessels built in the 1970s and 80s, having them decommissioned will not significantly affect our operational tempo since they are no longer capable of providing their optimum level of  capability and utilization,” he said.

The Navy sees the disposal of these ships as actually beneficial because it will “no longer provide for their costly maintenance” and instead allow them “to support other high impact projects, acquisitions and modernization programs.”

The plan to ditch Navy’s legacy ships was put on hold in 2020 as the anticipated acquisition of new vessels was disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Navy is set to commission its second brand new frigate, to be christened as BRP Antonio Luna (FF-151), which is missile-capable and one of two procured from South Korea’s Hyundai Heavy Industries for P16 billion.

Luna and its sister ship BRP Jose Rizal, which joined the naval force in 2020, would be the Navy’s most potent warships.

The Philippine government is also expected to sign a deal with the Israeli government this month for nine missile-armed boats worth P10 billion.

On Thursday (Feb. 11), Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana reiterated a long-announced plan to buy offshore patrol vessels and corvettes for the Navy to effectively sustain operations around the vast archipelago.

“Hopefully, we can have them already ordered soon. Otherwise we will wait for the next administration to do that,” he said.