High time for Philippines to have hospital ship – PCG commandant

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As the country continues to battle COVID-19, Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) Commandant, Admiral George V Ursabia Jr believes it is now high time for the Philippines to realize its first-ever Hospital Ship to augment humanitarian assistance and disaster response operations during natural and man-made crises.

“The Hospital Ship, which can be built through sovereign source – something that has not been done in the past, will allow us to protect the Filipino people, not only from armed threats, but from the ill effects of life-threatening and destructive consequences of natural and man-made disasters and calamities, major incidents in far-flung communities with inaccessible terrains, and from all forms of ecological damages,” Admiral Ursabia said during the Maritime and Archipelagic Nation Awareness Month (MANA Mo) 2020 webinar organized by the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP) yesterday, 25 September 2020.

With ₱3 billion investment for the construction and ₱1 billion fund for equipment and facilities, Admiral Ursabia seeks for a whole-of-nation approach in realizing the Philippines’ first-ever Hospital Ship with specifications comparable to or even better than that of the most advanced aluminum offshore patrol vessel in the world to date – the BRP Gabriela Silang (OPV-8301).

Using the ₱4 billion budget that may be sourced from the general annual appropriations fund or the existing national emergency fund amid the ongoing pandemic, the Philippines may finally have its very own Hospital Ship that is 70 – 85 meters in length with the speed of more than 25 knots and range of 4,000 nautical miles.

Manned by 20 competent PCG medical personnel or medical volunteers from concerned non-government organizations (NGOs), said Hospital Ship may endure more than 45 days of non-stop operations at sea equipped with at least five patient wards and two operating rooms, as well as x-ray, dental, consultation, and medical laboratories.

It will also have a sea ambulance in the form of a high-speed watercraft, a helideck, beaching ramp, cargo ramp, and hyperbaric chamber among others to ensure that needed medical assistance may immediately and conveniently be provided to victims in far-flung communities with no established health care institutions.

Moreover, the Coast Guard Commandant shared that a world-class local shipbuilding company in Cebu has the capacity to construct the proposed Hospital Ship which may take 18 – 24 months, aside from partner international shipbuilding companies in Singapore, South Korea, France, and the United States which may also be tapped for the project.

A Public-Private Partnership (PPP) agreement is also proposed for its sustainability, managed by a Multi-Sectoral Advisory Board (MSAB) to ensure that it will be resilient and continue to evolve despite changing leadership.

“The acquisition, therefore, presents a wise investment well-worth the cost as was proven historically. To archipelagic countries like the Philippines, the Hospital Ship is an indispensable tool for disaster response. Our country need not to wait for the next disaster and wish it had at least one,” Admiral Ursabia exhorted. PHILIPPINE COAST GUARD