CHARLESTON, South Carolina—The Philippines will exert all efforts to ease tensions in the West Philippine Sea but it will also defend its territory if needed, Ambassador Jose L. Cuisia Jr. told the officers and crew of the country’s newest warship, the BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PF-16), on the eve of its departure for Manila.
“As you know, there are some tensions in the West Philippine Sea and this may put you in harm’s way but there is no doubt that you will perform your duty of protecting Philippine territory if needed,” Ambassador Cuisia said in his remarks during his visit to the ship at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center here on Sunday.
“We do not want to see a confrontation and we are hoping that diplomatic efforts would ease these tensions,” Ambassador Cuisia said. “We are for peace and for the stability of the region but at the same time, we are prepared to defend what is ours.”
Ambassador Cuisia told Capt. Ernesto Baldovino and the officers, men and women of the Alcaraz that they are all expected to live up to the reputation of Commodore Ramon Alcaraz, a World War II hero, in whose honor the warship was named.
Alcaraz was credited for downing three enemy aircraft while commanding the Q112 Abra, a 55-foot offshore patrol boat, during the Japanese invasion of the Philippines. Alcaraz was captured and imprisoned by the Japanese but survived the war and went on to serve in the Navy where he retired as commodore in 1966. He passed away in 2009.
“Ramon Alcaraz had a very distinguished record in serving our country and our people. You are expected to live up to his reputation,” Ambassador Cuisia told the 88 officers and crew of the 378-foot Alcaraz, the second weather high endurance cutter (WHEC) that the Philippines acquired from the United States last year.
In his remarks, Ambassador Cuisia also expressed his appreciation to the United States Government for transferring what was formerly the USCGC Dallas to the Philippine Navy and to the US Navy and the US Coast Guard for ensuring the vessel’s successful retrofitting at a cost of $15.6 million.
“We look forward to the Alcaraz joining its sister ship, the BRP Gregorio Del Pilar,” Ambassador Cuisia said, referring to the other Hamilton-class cutter that was earlier acquired from the US in 2011. “We look forward to further upgrading the capabilities of the Philippine Navy.”
Ambassador Cuisia wished Captain Baldovino and his crew a safe journey to the Philippines and told them the Navy has a special place in his heart, having served as Naval Reserve Corps Commander during his time at De La Salle University in Manila.
He congratulated the officers and crew for their dedication to duty for surviving more than a year away from their loved ones in the Philippines as a result of the extended refurbishment of the vessel and their training.
During his visit, the Ambassador also had the chance to meet with members of the Filipino Community who attended a farewell reception on board the Alcaraz. He paid tribute to the community for serving as foster families to the crew thus allowing them to easily cope with their extended stay in the US.
“We are grateful to our kababayans here in South Carolina for opening the doors of their homes to the men and women of the Alcaraz and taking them in as their own,” he said.
The Ambassador was accompanied during his visit to the Alcaraz by officers from the Philippine Embassy in Washington D.C. led by First Secretary and Consul Elmer Cato, Defense and Naval Attache Capt. Elson Aguilar, Air Force Attache Col. Arnel Duco and Veterans Affairs Representative Maj. Gen. Delfin Lorenzana.
The vessel will leave at 10 a.m. on Monday and is expected to arrive in the Philippines in the first week of August. ###