PCG eyes 5 offshore patrol vessels for continuous WPS patrol

BRP Gabriela Silang (OPV-8301) is currently focused on COVID-19 related tasks and disaster response missions, Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) commandant Admiral George Ursabia, Jr. said during a virtual press briefing on March 3.

He noted that the 83.6-meter BRP Gabriela Silang, built by French shipbuilder OCEA, will be able shift to West Philippine Sea patrol when the COVID-19 and disaster related tasks are already managed.

The PCG commandant also said that they need total of 5 offshore patrol vessels (OPVs) to sustain patrol in the West Philippine Sea. Two are currently being built in Japan, while they are still pushing for acquisition of 2 more Gabriela Silang-class OPVs.

“The Gabriela Silang is an offshore patrol vessel which is ideal for deployment in the West Philippine Sea, right now we only have one of which,” Admiral Ursabia said. “Right now we are using it for COVID-related tasks and disaster response missions and that’s why we cannot deploy her yet in the West Philippine Sea for such purpose.”

“Once we have already managed the COVID-related, and even disaster response tasks, only then that Gabriela Silang will be deployed for such mission in West Philippine Sea,” Ursabia added.

“But of course she cannot sustain such patrol, it needs other vessels to help her. That explains why we are getting two more of such type of vessel and this is from Japan,” he said.

The PCG commandant said they are expecting delivery of ordered vessels from Japan in February and August next year. These vessels are the 94-meter multi-role response vessels (MRRVs) ordered from Japanese shipbuilder Mitsubishi Shipbuilding. The acquisition is funded through a loan provided by Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) under the Maritime Safety Capability Improvement Project (MSCIP) for the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), Phase II.

He added that they are also “pushing for acquisition of two more of the Gabriela Silang, so that we will have a total of five offshore patrol vessels.”

“With such number of such type of patrol vessel, only then that we can say that we can have a patrol of the West Philippine Sea in a continuous mode,” Admiral Ursabia said.