PH Coast Guard eyes 2 more French vessels for maritime patrols

by Philippine News Agency | March 3, 2021

Officers and crew of the future BRP Gabriela Silang start training in France. FILE PHOTO FROM PHILIPPINE COAST GUARD FACEBOOK PAGE

MANILA, Philippines—The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) planned to acquire two more offshore patrol vessels (OPV) from France to sustain its monitoring in the West Philippine Sea, PCG commandant Admiral George Ursabia said on Wednesday (March 3).

At an online press briefing, Ursabia said the PCG was setting its sights on a total of five new vessels in its inventory. There is currently just one such ship in the PCG fleet, BRP Gabriela Silang (OPV-8301) which was delivered in 2020.

The PCG flagship, BRP Gabriela Silang, is an 84-meter OPV built by French firm OCEA for P5.6 billion.

Since its arrival in April 2020, the BRP Gabriela Silang mainly helped the government’s response to the pandemic by transporting stranded passengers and medical supplies. It has not been deployed so far to the West Philippine Sea.

“The Gabriela Silang is an offshore patrol vessel which is ideal for deployment in the West Philippine Sea,” said Ursala.

“Right now we only have one of which. And right now we are using it for COVID-related tasks and disaster response missions and that is why we cannot deploy her yet in the West Philippine Sea for such purpose,” he said.

The PCG flagship would be deployed to the West Philippine Sea only “once we have already managed the COVID-related, disaster response tasks,” he said.

But the ship can’t patrol the entire West Philippine Sea by itself. The PCG is expecting delivery of two 94-meter patrol vessels, worth P6.7 billion, from Japan in 2022 to boost patrols.

“It needs other vessels to help her. That explains why we are getting two more of such type of vessels and this is from Japan,” he said.

In addition, the acquisition of “two more of Gabriela Silang” would bring the total number of OPVs to five, Ursabia said.

“With such number of such type of patrol vessel, only then that we can say that we can have patrol of the West Philippine Sea in a continuous mode,” he said.

“Right now we cannot because we are still in the process of gearing up the capability of the Philippine Coast Guard for such types of mission,” he said.

Ursabia said the pandemic disrupted PCG patrols in the West Philippine Sea, leaving only one PCG vessel deployed in Palawan at the moment.