THAT DOES IT - Korina Sanchez - The Freeman

The BRP Gregorio Del Pilar ran aground at Hasa-Hasa or Half-Moon Shoal last Wednesday night. The location is near the hotly-disputed Spratlys. Efforts are currently underway to free the ship, with the Palace saying that China has no issue about the ship’s location, or the efforts to retrieve her. China has offered to help retrieve the ship, but according to the Palace, they will not accept. But talks are supposedly ongoing with the US, who also have ships in the area. There are Japanese warships in the area as well. It is not clear if they will be asked to help.

But why did the ship run aground? Was the captain unaware of the depth of the shoal? Are the maps, particularly oceanographic charts of the Navy outdated, not indicating the presence of a shallow shoal? Is the ship lacking in equipment to accurately see the depths of the ocean? How much damage did the ship sustain? Initial reports state that the propellers were supposedly damaged, but the hull intact. This incident must absolutely be investigated by the Philippine Navy. If surface ships are running aground, how can the Philippine Navy even consider buying and operating a submarine?

Perhaps more surface warships need to be bought and operated well, before thinking of buying a submarine. This is the opinion of most I've talked to, non-military personnel, but well-read on anything military. Considering the country's long coastline, with the many bodies of water in between that need to be patrolled against terrorism and criminality, the Navy needs more fast patrol boats. This includes Coast Guard vessels that also need to be modernized. Now that the Navy is getting a taste for much larger, modern ships, they must first be proficient in using them. The BRP Gregorio Del Pilar was a former US Coast Guard ship, the largest in their class. The Navy currently has three of them.

Anyone can dream. The Philippine Navy is no exception. Who doesn’t want a strong, powerful Navy? Actually, not only the Navy but also the Army, the Air Force, and the Marines. The country’s armed forces have lacked modern equipment for quite some time now. Only the past and current administrations have really made modernizing the armed forces one of its priorities. The two frigates ordered from South Korea are scheduled to be delivered in 2020. These will become the most modern warships of the Navy. The crews that will be assigned to these two ships must be trained very well. But the Navy really has to rethink if it really needs a submarine over surface vessels. I'm sure there are many in the Navy who would prefer a submarine. But perhaps we should first get used to the modern surface warships that it now possesses, before thinking of buying a submerging ship. We should also say that a submarine will not come cheap, as well as the equipment needed to maintain and continually operate one.

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