Cartoon by Roni Santiago

We are under the impression that the Philippine Navy’s capability to secure and defend our territorial waters has been greatly boosted by the U.S. government’s donation of patrol vessels.

That impression, however, seems to be wrong,

A reliable source told the Filipino Star News that two U.S.-donated vessels – the Alcaraz and the BRP Gregorio del Pilar – are practically junk and, most of the time, docked at Pier 15 in Manila and Subic Bay in Zambales Province.

Our source, a retired Philippine Navy officer, said the two vessels, which were formerly US Coast Guard cutters, are practically useless as these conk out every now and then.

This is so because the vessels’ Fairbanks and Morse engines are of the pre-World War II variety, the source said. When there is mechanical defect in the engines, it could not be repaired because there are no spare parts.

“It is as if we were given a stale candy,” the source remarked.

He also disclosed that the two vessels are lube-oil guzzlers as there are leaks in the engines. Thirty drums of lube oil are consumed by the Alcaraz for a trip from Manila to Palawan and back, he said.

“You also need a lot of diesel fuel because of loose compression,” he said.

According to the same source, the U.S. Navy is now actually phasing out its Coast Guard cutters with Fairbanks and Morse engines because these are already obsolete. These are more of liabilities than assets, he commented.

He said that a patrol ship – the RP Batangas — donated recently by the Japanese government is in a better shape than those donated by the US government.

Last November when US President Barack Obama visited the Philippines, it was announced that the U.S. government is donating two more vessels to the Philippine Navy.

Obama announced the additional aid to the Philippines last Nov. 17 when he visited the BRP Gregorio del Pilar which was docked in Manila Bay. That ship was decommissioned from the U.S. Coast Guard and given to the Philippines.

The U.S. will transfer one research vessel and another former Coast Guard Hamilton-class cutter  to the Philippines, Obama said.

The ships, which will be acquired through the U.S. Excess Defense Articles program, could arrive in about six to eight months, a Philippine Navy official said.

We hope that the new ships to be donated by the U.S. government will be in tip-top shape, not like the Alcaraz and BRP Gregorio del Pilar.

New, functional vessels are needed to modernize the Philippine Navy especially at this time when China is illegally reclaiming islands in the Spratlys which are within Philippine territory.

The Philippine Navy cannot be modernized with useless, pre-War World II ships.