PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan — The safety of some 117 Philippine Navy (PN) sailors aboard BRP Gregorio del Pilar (FF-15), which ran aground within Hasa-Hasa Shoal in the West Philippine Sea, is a priority in the retrieval operation of the military, an official of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said Friday.
“The main concern is the safety of the crew of the ship and how long their food supplies will last until retrieval assets get to the area where it got beached,” Colonel Noel Detoyato, chief of the AFP Public Affairs Office, told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) in a phone interview.
Based on the assessment, Detoyato said, the Navy frigate appeared to have suffered “only minimal damage,” although this has yet to be confirmed.
He declined to give any detail on the possible reason the warship would run aground 100 kilometers off mainland Palawan in the disputed sea region, saying “all will be determined by the inquiry”.
“It is on top of corals right now, waiting to be retrieved. Ang concern is to ensure ‘yong safety ng mga crew. Safe naman sila at ‘yong food supplies naman long range ang preparation (The concern is to ensure the safety of the crew. They are safe and they have food supplies… their preparation was for long range),” he said.
Detoyato added that floating assets, which include motorized tugboats, are now on their way to Hasa-Hasa Shoal to tow it to the nearest possible port area in the province.
Dubbed “Goryo” by its crew, the Navy frigate ran aground while doing routine domain assessment patrol around 9:40 p.m. on Wednesday, August 29, at an estimated distance of two nautical miles from Hasa-Hasa Shoal.
“All afloat vessels in the Western Command (WESCOM) have already been mobilized to conduct an assessment, retrieve the aground vessel and return to safe harbor, and assist personnel aboard BRP Gregorio del Pilar,” Detoyato said in an earlier statement.
He added other assets from nearby military installations have also been ordered to “standby for any contingency.” Celeste Anna Formoso/PNA-northboundasia.com