UPDATE) THE Philippine Navy has sent one of its most advanced warships, the BRP Antonio Luna (FF151), to patrol the Philippine Rise off the coast of Aurora province.
The Antonio Luna’s acting commanding officer Commodore Jim Aris Alagao, said the ship will intensify the Navy’s presence in the Philippine Rise, a 13-million-hectare undersea volcanic ridge located east of Luzon.
Alagao said the area, also known as the Benham Rise, is part of the country’s extended continental shelf which is believed to be abundant with natural resources such as minerals and gas.
While the Philippine Rise is not disputed territory, its undersea riches have attracted China. In 2017, a Chinese survey ship was spotted lingering in the area for three months. When confronted by Philippine maritime authorities, its crew claimed the ship was merely exercising its freedom to navigate.
“The Philippine Navy will always continue to be at the forefront in protecting the country’s maritime domain and interests,” Alagao said on Thursday.
Named after the Philippine revolutionary general, the Antonio Luna is the second multi-role, guided missile frigate acquired by the Navy. It can carry out a variety of maritime missions against surface ships, and even aircraft.
The ship arrived in Cebu on April 4 and will conduct sovereignty patrols in the Visayas waters until April 7 before proceeding to the seas in Eastern Mindanao.
The Visayas Command (Viscom) welcomed the vessel as it moored in the Cebu International Port.
Viscom commander Lt. Gen. Benedict Arevalo said the presence of the Antonio Luna in the Visayas “is a big boost in our territorial defense posture here in the country’s maritime territory in the Visayas region.”
The sovereignty patrols “will not only focus on securing the country’s territorial integrity in the region but also on maritime security and maritime law enforcement in support of the Philippine Coast Guard,” he added.
The Antonio Luna was commissioned on March 19, 2021. It joined the world’s largest international maritime warfare exercise, the Rim of the Pacific or Rimpac, in 2022 and was adjudged as the Best Gunnery Ship, earning third place in the Naval Surface Fire Support Rodeo.
Earlier this month, the crew of the Antonio Luna raised a new Philippine flag on the highest peak of Mavulis Island in Batanes, the country’s northernmost island and first line of defense.
The flag raising was part of the Navy’s “Operation Bantay-Layag,” which began on March 31 and will run for a month.
The event was the second ceremony to be held on the island since the pandemic broke out in 2020.
The Antonio Luna “also assisted the troops in Mavulis in troubleshooting the island’s generator, as well as re-provisioned the troops with food and drinking water,” Alagao said.
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