MANILA, March 21 (PNA) – The Philippine Navy (PN) is ready to deploy its sole survey and hydrographic ship, the BRP Gregorio Velasquez (AGR-702), if ordered to survey Benham Rise.
The statement was made by Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) public affairs office chief, Col. Edgard Arevalo, when asked what assets could the military field should President Rodrigo Duterte and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana formalize the order calling for the mapping of the 13-million-hectare Benham Rise, which the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) confirmed as part of the Philippines’ continental shelf in 2012.
“In most probability, the BRP Gregorio Velasquez will be the one to be deployed,” Arevalo said in an interview with the Philippine News Agency (PNA) Tuesday.
Arevalo said the ship is the Navy’s sole asset capable of conducting oceanagraphic and hydrographic survey.
The BRP Gregorio Velasquez (formerly the R/V Melville) was one of two former American ships pledged by then president Barack Obama during his visit to the Philippines during the APEC Leaders Summit in November 2015.
The other ship was the USCGC Boutwell, which has been renamed to BRP Andres Bonifacio (FF-17), the third Hamilton-class cutter in the Navy’s service.
BRP Gregorio Velasquez was commissioned into PN service in June 2016.
The R/V Melville was used in the 1976 movie “King Kong”, starring Jessica Lange, specifically because of its hypoid propulsion drive at that time, which allowed it to move sideways. This type of drive is used on research vessels for station keeping in the ocean over drill and coring sites.
According to policy, auxiliary research vessels are to be named after national scientists, hence her namesake, Dr. Gregorio Velasquez, a pioneer in Philippine phycology.
Velasquez pioneered the intensive study and collection of the Philippine blue-green algal species. He was named National Scientist in 1982. He was also conferred a Distinguished Science Medal and Diploma of Honor by the Republic of the Philippines (1956), the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship (1956-1957), and the Republic of the Philippines Cultural Heritage award in 1972. He was in the World’s Who’s Who in Sciences in 1970.
Arevalo meanwhile clarified that the Chief Executive and Lorenzana have yet to give specific orders for the military to patrol Benham Rise, as well as parts of the West Philippine Sea.
“Up to now there is still no instruction from President Duterte and Secretary Lorenzana for us to patrol the Benham Rise and the West Philippine Sea. But we are always ready to defend our territory and sovereignty,” he added.