MANILA - Amid territorial disputes in the South China Sea, the government is looking at French frigates for the Philippine Navy’s use.
Naval officials were given a tour yesterday of the French Navy’s surveillance frigate Prairial – a 93.5-meter ship with both military and civilian characteristics, making it ideal for multiple purposes including disaster relief and other humanitarian missions, operations against piracy and international drug trafficking, and territorial patrol.
The Prairial is one of two French warships deployed in the Pacific – one in Tahiti and the other in New Caledonia.
Prairial Commander Frederic Daumas said at a reception on the ship last night that the frigate, with 93 crewmembers, has performed well in various weather conditions including hurricanes since being commissioned in May 1992, and would last many more years.
The Prairial is armed with 20 mm and 100 mm guns and Exocet surface-to-air missiles, and carries a transport craft, three boats and one Alouette III helicopter.
An information sheet on the frigate states: “Their main duty is to patrol overseas maritime zones over which France implements its sovereignty. In peace time, they enforce navigational police, control fishery and protect trade traffic.”
Daumas said his crew would conduct joint exercises with the Philippine Navy tomorrow in Manila Bay before the frigate leaves for Hong Kong.
The Prairial, which arrived Monday from Guam for its seventh port call in Manila, is on the fourth month of a seven-month deployment. It will also visit China, Japan and South Korea before returning to Tahiti.
Several months ago, the Philippine government considered acquiring coast guard patrol boats from France, but the plan did not push through.