The acquisition of modern naval platforms, such as the missile frigate, BRP Jose Rizal (FF-150), and its sister ship, BRP Antonio Luna (FF-151), is part of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) ongoing efforts to ensure the country’s territorial integrity.
This was stressed by AFP Chief-of-Staff, Gen. Benjamin Madrigal Jr., when asked by reporters whether the acquisition of these frigates mean that the country is engaging in an arms race in the wake of the ongoing tensions at the West Philippine Sea.
“No, the objective of our ongoing modernization program is to come up with a very credible and world-class AFP that the Filipino people will be proud of. Those (tensions) are just incidental but our overall intention, of course, is to ensure we maintain our territorial integrity and that we are able to represent an armed forces that can be at par with other Armed Forces in other countries,” he said in a mixture of Filipino and English during the briefing for the launch of the BRP Jose Rizal.
Madrigal said these ships will be able to support Filipino fishermen engaged in their lawful occupation in the country’s territorial waters.
The AFP chief’s views were echoed by Philippine Navy flag officer-in-command, Vice Admiral Robert Empedrad, who noted the urgent need for the PN to upgrade its new assets due to the country’s vast territorial waters.
“There is a saying that if you want to achieve peace, you prepare for war. I attended the International Maritime Security Conference last week in Singapore and we observed that a lot of Navies are modernizing their capabilities,” Empedrad said.
He cited as an example the case of Australia, China, and Malaysia who are currently ramping up their naval forces.
“I think there is a need to beef up the PN because we have vast maritime (territories that these countries) and we need to protect it,” Empedrad said.
The BRP Jose Rizal was formally launched at the Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) shipyard in Ulsan, South Korea Thursday morning.
The ship, which is expected to be delivered to the Philippines by HHI in September 2020, will be armed with a 76mm main gun, a 30mm secondary gun, torpedo launching system, surface-to-air missiles, and surface-to-surface missiles.
It is also equipped with Hanwha Systems’ Naval Shield combat management system (CMS), which integrates all shipboard sensors and weapons and decides which is ideal to deal with any incoming threat. PNA