Recent milestones in Korea-Philippines defense cooperation

DIPLOMATIC POUCH - Han Dong-Man (The Philippine Star) - September 5, 2019 - 12:00am

Last Tuesday, August 20th, I was at the Manila South Harbor to attend the Joint Arrival Ceremony of the BRP Conrado Yap, a naval vessel donated by the Republic of Korea, the first decommissioned Corvette of its class to be transferred to the Philippines. Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana was the guest of honor and speaker. Among the other VIPs were AFP Chief of Staff General Benjamin Madrigal, Navy Flag Officer in Command Robert Empedrad, and Korean War veterans.

Leaving the ROK coast on August 12th and following a five-day voyage, the vessel successfully arrived and is expected to contribute to the anti-vessel, anti-submarine, and anti-air capabilities of the Philippine Navy.

The coming of the BRP Conrado Yap was most auspicious, as the Philippines and Korea are currently celebrating 70 years of diplomatic relations. Secretary Lorenzana even labeled the event as a “historic step towards the realization of (the navy’s) aspirations, in fulfilling its mandate of protecting (Philippine) seas” and securing the future of Filipinos.

The donation of the ship, which is an Anti-Submarine Warfare variant of the Pohang Class Patrol Combat Corvette (PCC) of the Republic of Korea Navy, is just another demonstration of the long history of defense cooperation between the two countries.

Fittingly, the Philippine Navy named the ship after Conrado Yap, a Korean War hero who lost his life during the famous Battle of Yultong. Captain Yap was the most decorated Filipino serviceman of the Korean War. The ROK appreciates the courage and ultimate sacrifice of Captain Yap, and we are pleased to see him honored with the PCC bearing his name.

The new vessel signifies many things.

It has served for three decades in the ROK Navy, and has now been reborn to provide the Philippine Navy with maritime defense capabilities.

It will further strengthen the diplomatic relationship between Korea and the Philippines, particularly in the area of defense. We expect further coordination in the transfer of defense assets and mutual military cooperation.

The new vessel will contribute to the Philippine Navy’s maritime operation capabilities, unmatched in weapons capabilities and speed.

Although the BRP Conrado Yap is just one ship, the overall design will enable her to conduct sustained maritime patrol operations in littoral waters, exclusive economic zones, and the high seas.

This was an occasion to confirm that the ROK stands as a friend and ally to the Philippines that will continuously walk alongside its partner.

It must be remembered that the Philippines was the first Asian nation to heed the call of the United Nations for an international response to North Korea’s invasion of South Korea in 1950. With a deep sense of gratitude, the Korean government has been trying to repay the noble sacrifice of the members of the Philippine Expeditionary Forces to Korea in many different ways as a token of our appreciation for the sacrifice and devotion to defend Korea during the Korean War. Over 500 Korean soldiers were even sent to the Philippines in 2013 to help in recovery efforts after super typhoon Yolanda devastated parts of the Visayan region. There have been many demonstrations of the close military and defense cooperation between Korea and the Philippines. As of May 2017, 12 Korean-made FA-50 fighter planes have beefed up the air defense capability of the Philippine Air Force. On Tuesday last week, we had the contract signing ceremony to upgrade the Del Pilar-class frigates of the Philippine Navy. This was followed the next day by the 2019 Philippines-Korea Defense Industry Cooperation Seminar which aimed to bring our defense partnership up to the next level by identifying various cooperation opportunities with the participation of Secretary Lorenzana of the Philippine Department of National Defense. And yesterday, a three-day goodwill visit by a Korean Navy Cruise Training Task Group formally ended, with two Korean vessels given a send-off at the Manila South Harbor, the same place where the BRP Conrado Yap docked.

The Philippines and Korea are in the same boat to navigate a new journey for strengthening our close ties beyond the 70th anniversary of the diplomatic relations.

Korea will continue to be a good and reliable partner of the Philippines based upon a solid partnership and friendship.

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(Han Dong-man is the Ambassador of the Republic of Korea to the Philippines)

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