Washington has turned down Manila’s request to retain the entire weapons system in the second US Coast Guard cutter the Philippines is acquiring from the United States.
Top Filipino military officials flew to the US last weekend for the ceremonial turnover on May 23 of the 378-ft USCG Dallas in North Charleston, South Carolina.
According to Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, the second cutter will also have most of its weapons removed as happened with the first cutter acquired from the US by the Philippine Navy last year.
In the case of what is now the BRP Gregorio del Pilar, all its weapons were removed except for a 76-mm Oto Melara automatic cannon.
In a meeting in Washington on April 30, Gazmin personally asked his counterpart, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, to keep the USCG Dallas in its original state and to restore the weapons that were removed from its sister ship, the Gregorio del Pilar.
The Gregorio del Pilar is currently the biggest and most modern warship in the Philippine Navy fleet which still relies on World War II-vintage vessels.
Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff general Jessie Dellosa and Philippine Navy Fleet commander Rear Admiral Jose Luis Alano will take possession of the Dallas during a symbolic turnover on Wednesday.
The vessel will be renamed the BRP Ramon Alcaraz, after the World War II hero and former fleet commander, and will be under the command of Navy Captain Ernesto Baldovino.
In April 1942, Alcaraz was commander one of the Philippines’ three torpedo boats that shot down three of nine attacking Japanese fighter planes.
After the turnover, the Philippine Navy crew will undergo training before they sail the ship home to the Philippines. -By Dona Z Pazzibugan