BRP GREGORIO DEL PILAR: Able to cruise at 29 knots, the former Hamilton class cutter is 378 ft long and is armed with a 76 mm cannon, 2x 25 mm Mk38, 20 mm Phalanx CIWS (Close In Weapons System).

MANILA, July 18 (Mabuhay) – At least 95 Filipino sailors will man the Philippines’ newest and biggest warship “BRP Gregorio del Pilar” in its voyage from the United States to the Philippines.

Navy flag officer-in-command Rear Admiral Alexander Pama said the ship will begin its trip to the Philippines on Monday (US time).

“Meron tayong 95 matipunong mandaragat na sasakay sa barko. Sila mismo maglalayag nito magiging tripulante ng barkong ito,” said Pama, who is in San Francisco.

He said there will be a send-off ceremony on Monday (U.S. time) before the ship leaves port for the Philippines.

Pama expressed confidence Filipinos will be satisfied with the capabilities of the ship, which was a former Hamilton-class U.S. Coast Guard cutter.

The Philippines formally acquired the cutter on May 13.

“Mukhang masisiyahan ang ating kababayan pagdating diyan. Naka-schedule ito maglayag bukas. Harinawa tuloy-tuloy ito, bukas ating ise-sendoff ito para sila makalayag papunta sa Pilipinas,” Pama said.

On Sunday, Malacañang said the BRP Gregorio del Pilar, which will patrol areas near the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), will not likely to agitate China.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said President Benigno Aquino III had told the Philippine Navy that the government will upgrade the equipment of the Armed Forces to boost its capability to protect the country’s territory.

The ship will be used to ensure maritime security of the Malampaya Project, which is in the west of Palawan in the waters near the disputed Spratly Islands. (MNS) â–