PHL’s first missile-capable frigate to be commissioned today in Subic
By Henry Empeño & Rene Acosta
SUBIC BAY FREEPORT—The country’s most powerful warship, the BRP Jose Rizal (FF-150), will officially enter military service today (Friday, July 10, 2020) after handover, christening, and commissioning ceremonies at the Alava Pier here that will be led by no less than President Duterte who will “attend virtually.”
Navy chief Vice Adm. Giovanni Carlo Bacordo said on Tuesday that with President Duterte’s virtual availability, they would push through with the commissioning of the first multimission capable warship.
“It’s virtual. He is going to deliver a message,” Bacordo said of the Commander in Chief, whose presence, or at least his participation, in the event had been invoked by the Navy.
He said they got a confirmation on Tuesday afternoon that Duterte would attend the ceremony via the cyberspace, and this had prompted military officials to carry on with the preplanned schedule.
The multirole frigate, which arrived in this free port from South Korea on May 23, 2020, will be commissioned by the top brass of the Navy, with Defense Secretary Delfin N. Lorenzana as guest of honor in place of the physical presence of President Duterte.
“We want the President to be the guest of honor for this, even whether physically or virtually. This is such an important activity for us that the President is needed for this activity,” Bacordo added.
“Because of this Covid-19 and the new normal, the virtual presence of the President is as good as a physical presence,” the Navy Flag Officer in Command added.
Capt. Jerry Garrido Jr., who is the ship’s commanding officer, will render a readiness report at the start of the ceremony, to be followed by a welcome message by Bacordo, and a reading of commissioning and assignment orders by naval adjutant Col. Stephen Cabanlet.
Following the ship’s commissioning, Garrido will formally assume command of the frigate and officially set the watch, which is to assign the crew to specific duties on the ship.
The commissioning will be witnessed by representatives from the Navy and the Olongapo City police office, as well as officials of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA).
SBMA Chairman Wilma T. Eisma said it will be an honor for Subic Bay to host the commissioning rites for the country’s newest and most powerful military ship.
“Like this frigate, the Subic Bay Freeport symbolizes the new hope of the Philippine government to modernize and be self-reliant towards true independence and sustainability,” Eisma said.
“It is the pride of every Filipino to witness this historic event when we realize our common aspirations for a secure and stable future,” she added.
The BRP Jose Rizal is the first brand-new frigate to be brought into the service of the Philippine Navy and the first to have missile capability. It was launched in Korea fully a year before its arrival in Subic.
Armed with missiles and torpedoes, it is touted to be capable for anti-surface, anti-air, anti-submarine, and electronic warfare—a capability boosted by a top speed of 25 knots and the proficiency to stay out at sea for 30 days straight.
The 107.5-meter long frigate costs P8 billion, and is among the first two brand-new frigates to be acquired by the Philippines under a P16-billion ($315 million) contract awarded to Hyundai Heavy in 2016. Another P2 billion has reportedly been earmarked for the ships’ weapon systems and munitions.
BRP Rizal’s sister ship, the BRP Antonio Luna, is expected to be delivered in September after undergoing sea trials like the first frigate did.
The Philippine Navy said the BRP Jose Rizal was initially scheduled for commissioning on June 19, 2020, to coincide with the birthday of its namesake, the national hero Dr. Jose Rizal, but this was canceled after one of its crew tested positive for the new coronavirus disease.
The infected crew member had already tested negative according to the results of confirmatory swabbing made at the Armed Forces of the Philippines Medical Center that came out earlier in June.
The ship itself underwent the requisite 14-day quarantine after it arrived here from South Korea last May and remained on anchorage at Subic Bay until June 1, 2020.