Philippines Navy ship sets off for Russia

Jaime Laude - The Philippine Star
Philippines Navy ship sets off for Russia
Members of a 400-man Navy/ Marine contingent wave from the BRP Tarlac in Manila as they depart for a visit to the headquarters of the Russian Pacific Fleet in Vladivostok yesterday.
Edd Gumban

ON BOARD BRP TARLAC, Philippines — A Philippine Navy (PN) contingent, accompanied by a select group of journalists, began yesterday its 10-day voyage to Vladivostok in Russia on board this ship in what officials described as a demonstration of the Duterte administration’s foreign policy of being “friend to all, enemy to none.”

“In this visit to Russia, we are now operationalizing the government’s new foreign policy,” PN chief of naval operations Capt. Roy Vincent Trinidad said in an interview.

He said the Vladivostok visit should not be interpreted in purely military terms but as an instrument of enhancing diplomatic and information relations.

Commander Jonathan Zata, Navy spokesman, said the contingent comprised 400 sailors and Marines, as well as a helicopter detachment.

The BRP Tarlac is expected to arrive in Vladivostok, home of Russia’s Pacific Fleet, on Oct. 1. On its return voyage, it is expected to drop anchor in Jeju, South Korea on Oct. 10 for an International Fleet Review (IFR).

“This historic visit of our Naval Task Force to the Russian Pacific Fleet in Vladivostok addresses our omissions, reciprocates goodwill visits of Russian naval vessels in 2017 and 2018, demonstrates our firm commitment to forge stronger ties with Russia and showcases our determined pursuit of an independent foreign policy,” Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Undersecretary Ernesto Abella said in his send-off message.

Also present at the sendoff ceremonies were Russian Ambassador Igor Khovaev and South Korean Ambassador Han Dong-man.

Navy Flag Officer In Command Vice Adm. Robert Empedrad said the historic undertaking would be a demonstration of the Navy’s capability “to extend its reach to conduct maritime patrol beyond our borders.”

“The bold attempt for the first time a ship to visit Russia and the subsequent participation in the IFR in South Korea are manifestations of our deliberate intentions to explore and conquer uncharted territories,” he pointed out.

Commodore Toribio Adaci, commander Fleet-Marine Ready Force (FMRF), said the deployment of BRP Tarlac to Vladivostok is in line with the modernization program of the Philippine Navy.

“The Navy is now in the process of leveling up its capabilities as it modernizes its fleet to be at par with other foreign navies,” Adaci said.

He added that the Navy is now slowly shifting from internal to external security posture.

Zata also said the primary aim of the Vladivostok port call is to maintain and strengthen good relations, enhance rapport and promote interoperability in the maritime region.

Activities in Russia will include visits to naval facilities as well as sports and cultural interaction. Sea sub-phase exercises will also be launched in the waters of Vladivostok. 

“The Philippine Navy’s port visit in Russia and its participation in the IFR promote the Navy’s critical role of sustaining international defense and security engagement and multilateral cooperation. It is an ingenious affirmation of its commitment in collaborating with other navies to promote peace and stability in the region,” Zata said.

Meanwhile, Philippine and Indonesian naval officials held a Navy-to-Navy Cooperative Meeting (NTNCM) yesterday to further strengthen their partnership on maritime security issues.

Chief of Naval Staff, Rear Adm. Erick Kagaoan welcomed Vice Assistant Chief of the Indonesian Navy for Operations First Adm. Hengky Yusup to the event held in Makati City.

The Philippine Navy hosted the 9th NTNCM with the Indonesian Navy or Tentara Nasional Indonesia Angkatan Laut with the aim of strengthening relations, expanding interoperability and enhancing cooperation between the two navies.

“The relation between our two navies has been playing an important role in supporting maritime security in our region,” Yusup said.

“The changes in the world and regional strategic environment/maritime security remain a global and regional issue. It indeed requires cooperation and collaboration among neighboring and surrounding states to ensure safety of maritime activities,” Kagaoan said. – With Michael Punongbayan

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