Philippine Navy gets 3 more landing ships from Australia

Jaime Laude - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - The Australian government has completed delivery of the last three Landing Craft Heavy (LCH), the same type of sea vessel it had earlier promised to provide to boost the Philippine Navy’s sealift capabilities.

Navy spokesman Capt. Lued Lincuna said the three LCHs were delivered and offloaded by a huge cargo vessel of NTG Shipping in Liloan, Cebu City last March 26.

Prior to the delivery, two of the LCHs were picked up in Darwin and another in Cairns, Australia.  

The three are sister ships of BRP Ivatan (formerly HMAS Tarakan) and BRP Batak (ex-HMAS Brunei) that were commissioned into the Navy service last Aug. 10.

Lincuna said the transport ships would be moved from Cebu to the shipyard in Sangley Point, Cavite in May in time for the Navy’s 118th founding anniversary.

By this time, the Navy will have the five former Australian logistic ships in its floating assets inventory.

The Australian government donated the first two LCHs in November last year. The three newly arrived vessels were sold to the Philippines for P270 million at a friendship price.

“With their capability of moving large amounts of cargo, personnel and equipment, these vessels will bolster the PN’s humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) operations. They will also be useful in transporting troops from one operational area to another, especially during amphibious operations,” Lincuna said.

The Navy, aside from the newly Philippine-built cargo and logistic ship BRP Tagbanua, has been relying mainly on World War II-era logistic ships in its troop, logistic and humanitarian transports operations for decades.

Lincuna said a platoon of sailors would be assigned to each of the newly delivered cargo ships which will be fitted with .50 caliber heavy machine guns as their defensive weapons.

Meanwhile, officials announced this year’s Phl-US Balikatan exercises will showcase a rapid response force in a combined military drill in Antique next month.

Capt. Celeste Frank Sayson, Balikatan 2016 spokesman for the Philippine side, said Antique was chosen as site for the joint rapid response force drill because of  its strategic location.

“Panay Island is located at the center of our archipelagic country. Up north is Luzon and down south is Mindanao. From Panay, we as soldiers can quickly perform our mandated tasks from the island as our launching point in times of man-made or natural calamities, may it be in Luzon or Mindanao,” Sayson said.

This year’s joint Balikatan will be held from April 4 to 16. The scheduled rapid response force drill from April 11 to 14 will not only involve troops but also various types of war-fighting and disaster response equipment.

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