Navy’s research ship committed to help in PHL Rise studies

The BRP Gregorio Velasquez (AGR-702) will commit to help Filipino scientists in conducting further research off the 13-million-hectare Philippine Rise. This was disclosed by Defense Undersecretary Cardozo Luna during the first anniversary of the renaming of the Philippine Rise in Casiguran off Aurora province on May 16.

Luna said this is in line with President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s order that all available support be provided to Filipino scientists tasked to conduct additional studies off the Philippine Rise.

“I understand (that the) the BRP Gregorio Velasquez is already here. She is our research ship. I will tell (Defense) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana that I am committing her to you and you can use her anytime,” Luna said in Filipino.

The ship is capable of conducting oceanographic and hydrographic surveys.

The BRP Gregorio Velasquez (formerly the R/V Melville) is one of the two ex-American ships pledged by then president Barack Obama during his visit to the Philippines during the APEC Leaders Summit in November 2015.

The other ship is the USCGC Boutwell, which is now renamed to BRP Andres Bonifacio (FF-17) – the third Hamilton-class cutter of the Philippine Navy (PN).

The BRP Gregorio Velasquez was commissioned into the PN service in June 2016. In 1976, then R/V Melville was used in the movie “King Kong” starring Jessica Lange because of its Hypoid propulsion drive capability to move sideways. This type of drive is used on research vessels for station-keeping in the ocean over drill and coring sites.

As per policy, auxiliary research vessels are to be named after national scientists, hence her namesake, Dr. Gregorio Velasquez – a pioneer in Philippine phycology, a branch of science pertaining to the study of algae and seaweeds.

Velasquez was named an academician in 1978 and conferred as National Scientist in 1982.

He was also conferred with a Distinguished Science Medal and Diploma of Honor from the Republic of the Philippines (1956), the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship (1956-57), Men of Science, Division of Biological Sciences in 1969, World’s Who’s Who in Sciences in 1970, and the Republic of the Philippines Cultural Heritage award in 1972.

While BRP Velasquez is the sole MSR vessel of the Navy, it is not the only one that can assist the team of scientists. The mapping of the area was done by two multidisciplinary vessels – BRP Hydrographer Presbitero and BRP Hydrographer Ventura of the National Mapping and Resources Information Authority (NAMRIA) while key MSR sorties have been utilizing M/V DA BFAR (Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources).

Activities for the first year anniversary of the renaming of the Philippine Rise started with a send-off ceremony for the marine scientists by President Duterte at the mouth of Casiguran Bay and the signing of Presidential Proclamation declaring Portions of the Philippine Rise as Marine Resource Reserve Area.

These events were highlighted by an on-deck flag raising ceremony at BRP Davao del Sur (LD-602), simultaneous with the laying of underwater flag marker at 47 feet below sea level (shallowest part of Philippine Rise). The activities were documented by an underwater video conducted by geologists of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Mines and Geosciences Bureau using a remotely-operated vehicle.

This was followed by the casting of the first buoy off the Philippine Rise.

The one-ton buoy was made of fully urethane foam with a stainless body attached to a five-ton concrete anchor by a 40 mm. fully ethylene rope.

It was designed in Malabon but was fabricated in San Fernando, Pampanga for 10 days from April 2, 2018.

A transponder costing PHP85,000 was also attached to the buoy to determine its exact location. PNA