Russian visit highlights PHL Navy capability

The Philippine Navy (PN)’s first-ever port visit to Vladivostok, Russia has highlighted its capability to go beyond its maritime borders, an official said Friday.

Navy flag-officer-in-command Vice Admiral Robert Empedrad made the statement during the send-off ceremonies at Pier 13, Manila South Harbor for strategic sealift vessel BRP Tarlac (LD-601) and the 440 officers and enlisted aboard her, including a helicopter detachment afloat.

“(This shows that the) Navy is now capable to extend its reach to conduct maritime patrol beyond our borders. The bold attempt for the first time a ship to visit Russia and the subsequent participation to the IFR (International Fleet Review) in South Korea are manifestations of our deliberate intentions to explore and conquer uncharted territories,” Empedrad added.

Meanwhile, Department of Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Ernesto Abella, who graced the event as guest-of-honor and keynote speaker in behalf of DFA Secretary Allan Peter Cayetano, said the historic visit demonstrates the country’s resolve to forge stronger ties with Russia in pursuit of an independent foreign policy.

“This historic visit of our Naval Task Force to the Russian Pacific Fleet in Vladivostok addresses our omissions, reciprocates goodwill visits of Russian naval vessels in 2017 and 2018, demonstrates our firm commitment to forge stronger ties with Russia, and showcases our determined pursuit of an independent foreign policy,” the DFA official said.

BRP Tarlac is expected to arrive in Vladivostok by October 1. Her port visit there will last until October 6.

The voyage from Manila to Vladivostok will last 10 days.

“Series of activities between the two navies will be conducted in order to further enhance relationship and cooperation. This includes the visit to Russian Navy facilities and sports and cultural interaction. Sea sub-phase exercises will likewise be undertaken in the waters of Vladivostok after the conclusion of the port visit,” Navy spokesperson Commander Jonathan Zata said.

Meanwhile, the IFR in Jeju Island, South Korea will take place between October 10 to 15.

“(A) series of sea and shore activities will likewise be held with PN contingent and other countries’ navies. This is the first time the PN sends its ship to participate in this activity in South Korea,” he added.

Zata said the PN’s port visit in Russia and its participation in the IFR promotes the Navy’s critical role of sustaining international defense and security engagement and multilateral cooperation.

This is the latest contingent sent by the PN following its successful participation in the RIMPAC Exercise in Hawaii and the recently concluded “Kakadu” 2018 exercise held in Darwin, Australia.