Sunday, December 18, 2011

Philippines launches its biggest warship amid South China Sea territorial dispute

The Philippines relaunched an old U.S. Coast Guard cutter Wednesday as its biggest and most modern warship to guard potentially oil-rich waters that are at the center of a dispute with China.

President Benigno Aquino III witnessed the commissioning of the 3,390-ton Philippine navy frigate BRP Gregorio del Pilar in an austere Manila pier ceremony that he said symbolized his country’s struggle to modernize its underfunded military despite many obstacles.

“As an archipelago with 36,000 nautical miles of coastline, it’s important for us to have an adequate and formidable defense to guard our islands,” Aquino said. He added that such a security shield could no longer be mounted “with dilapidated vessels and old and faulty equipment.”

As a navy brass band played, Roman Catholic priests sprinkled holy water on the deck of the newly repainted warship, equipped with anti-aircraft guns and a newly refurbished surveillance helicopter on the flight deck. Three navy planes flew over and officials broke a bottle of sugarcane wine on the bow as the ship went into commission. Read More