AFP chief to receive 2nd US patrol ship

by Rodney Jaleco, ABS-CBN North America News Bureau

Posted at May 19 2012 08:39 AM | Updated as of May 20 2012 02:15 AM

WASHINGTON D.C. -  Philippine Armed Forces chief Gen. Jessie Dellosa will formally accept delivery of the US Coast Guard high-endurance cutter USCGC Dallas in Charleston, South Carolina on Tuesday (May 22).

Dellosa will stay overnight here on Monday before flying to Charleston the next day. He will be met there by Rear Admiral Jose Luis Alano, Philippine Fleet commander, who is arriving there a day ahead.

The “Dallas” will be re-christened the BRP Ramon Alcaraz in honor of the Filipino naval officer who skippered the torpedo boat “Abra” that was among the first to engage Japanese forces at the opening days of World War II, shooting down 3 enemy planes in the sky above Manila Bay. He was later captured but survived the war, passing away in 2009 in Santa Ana, California.

She is the 2nd Hamilton-class all-weather patrol ship turned over to the Philippine Navy under a “hot transfer” arrangement with the US. The first ship BRP Gregorio del Pilar has been assigned to the Spratly Islands and recently figured in the stand-off with Chinese vessels in Scarborough Shoal.

The “Dallas” was launched in 1968 and initially served as an “ocean station”. She received her baptism of fire in Vietnam, providing fire support and interdiction of Vietcong smuggling boats.

The “Dallas” is equipped with an Oto Melara 76mm gun and two 25mm “Bushmaster” machineguns. However, officials tell ABS-CBN News that like the “Hamilton” the US is stripping down most of the modern gear aboard, especially the sophisticated radars and sensors, despite an appeal from top Philippine officials to keep the advanced equipment.

The BRP Alcaraz is not going home soon. It is scheduled to be refitted at the expense of the Philippine Navy. It is expected to arrive in the Philippines in the 3rd quarter of the year.

A Philippine Navy crew has been in the country for several weeks training aboard other Hamilton-class ships. This will be the same group that will take the BRP Alcaraz back to the Philippines.

This comes as the Pentagon today briefed the US Congress about China’s military modernization, especially growing indications that it was trying to extend its influence farther abroad.

Although China says it is spending $106 billion this year to upgrade its military – which is lower than US military spending – the report suggested they could be spending more than what they’re saying in public.

Philippine officials say they are setting aside $1.2 billion to buy new combat aircraft outside the US. The Philippines has expressed a desire to purchase a squadron of American-built F-16 Falcons but there have been questions about cost and the readiness of the Philippine Air Force for a quantum leap towards state-of-the-art planes.