Jul 312013

Manila, Philippines — Ahead of the arrival of the country’s second Hamilton-class Cutter acquired from the United States, the Philippine Navy (PN) announced that BRP Gregorio Del Pilar (PF 15) has successfully test fired its 76 mm Oto Melara main gun off the waters of Zambales.

The firing exercise was conducted as the Navy prepared to welcome BRP Gregorio Alcaraz (PF 16), Del Pilar’s sister ship, which is expected to enter Philippine waters on Friday, August 2.

Lt. Cmdr. Gregory Fabic, the PN spokesman, said Del Pilar tested its main weapon by firing at a “killer tomato” balloon target drifting about two nautical miles away from the ship.

Fabic said the gunnery test was conducted Monday off the coast of Zambales, “safe for it (Del Pilar) not to inflict damage to any other fishing vessel.”

The Philippine Navy spokesman described the accuracy exhibited by Del Pilar’s gunnery team as “excellent.”

He said that, normally, before a ship can hit that small a target, between 15 to 30 rounds need to be fired. In the case of Del Pilar, Fabic said it was able to hit the target within five rounds.

“Five rounds pa lang na-hit na yung target kaya tumigil na sila. Wala nang assessment na mangyayari kasi na-hit na niya . . . so it’s very effective he said.

While the test firing was staged in waters near the Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, it was not meant as a show of force against China, he said.

Panatag shoal, a rich fishing ground located well within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ), has been under virtual control of China for more than a year now.

“Nagkataon lang na nandun siya (Del Pilar) ngayon pending the arrival of PF16 (Alcaraz),” said Fabic.

The Alcaraz, which left Guam 2 p.m. on Sunday, is due to arrive in the country on Friday.

A festive welcome ceremony slated on August 6 is being readied for the Navy’s second Hamilton-class ship when she finally drops anchor at Subic Bay next week.

President Benigno S. Aquino III and US Ambassador Harry K. Thomas Jr. will lead the welcome ceremony for Alcaraz and her crew who had completed 14 months of training in the US.

Local fishing boats, yachts, and tugboats will form a fluvial procession when Alcaraz nears Subic as part of the festive welcome.

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