VERA FILES FACT CHECK: FB post on Philippine Navy ship acquisitions NEEDS CONTEXT

A Facebook (FB) post by a pro-Duterte vlogger credited the current administration for modernizing the military, particularly the acquisition of six Philippine Navy ships. This needs context.

The Nov. 16 post said the government of President Rodrigo Duterte has given priority not only to building roads and airports but also to beefing up naval capability, citing the following ships: BRP Jose Rizal, BRP Antonio Luna, BRP Conrado Yap, BRP Tarlac, BRP Gregorio Del Pilar, and BRP Ramon Alcaraz.

The post stirred confusion among netizens. Some claimed that all six navy ships should be credited to the Aquino government, while others said the ships are part of Duterte’s legacy.

The fact is three of the ships were commissioned under the Duterte administration, while the other three were commissioned during former president Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III’s term. These big-ticket naval acquisitions for external defense fall under the phased implementation of the 15-year Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Modernization Program that began in 2013 as provided for in Republic Act No. 10349.

The first phase was from 2013 to 2017, the second phase from 2018 to 2022, and the last phase from 2023 to 2028. Following are details of each acquisition, including the date of commissioning of the Navy ships:

A. Ships commissioned during the Aquino administration

BRP Gregorio del Pilar

The BRP Gregorio del Pilar, christened and commissioned in Manila on Dec. 14, 2011, was originally used as the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Alexander Hamilton.

Bought for P450 million, it was formally transferred on May 13, 2011. It was acquired through the Excess Defence Articles (EDA) program, which allows the U.S. to provide old, excess military assets to foreign countries that support U.S. foreign policy.

BRP Ramon Alcaraz

The BRP Ramon Alcaraz was christened and commissioned on Nov. 22, 2013. It was originally used as the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Dallas.

The 378-foot high endurance cutter was formally transferred to the Philippines on May 23, 2012, and arrived in the country on Aug. 6, 2013. It was bought under the EDA Program for P400 million.

BRP Tarlac

The BRP Tarlac was commissioned on June 1, 2016, during the Philippine Navy’s 118th anniversary. It was christened and launched on Jan. 18, 2016, in Surabaya, Indonesia, where the 7,200 ton strategic sealift vessel was built by Indonesia’s state-owned shipbuilder PT PAL.

B. Ships commissioned during the Duterte administration

BRP Conrado Yap

The BRP Conrado Yap was formally commissioned and handed over to the country during a ceremony at the Jinhae Naval Base in South Korea on Aug. 5, 2019. It was welcomed by the Philippine Navy at the Manila South Harbor two weeks later.

Named after the most decorated Philippine Army officer killed in action in the Korean war in 1951, the former Pohang-class corvette Chungju was donated to the Philippines in 2014 amid increased incursions of Chinese military ships into Philippine territorial waters.

BRP Antonio Luna

The BRP Antonio Luna was commissioned on March 19, 2021 and is capable of anti-air, anti-surface, anti-submarine and electronic warfare operations.

It was one of two frigates acquired through a P15.7 billion deal with South Korean shipbuilder Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI), Inc. Initiated by the Aquino administration, it was the first military contract inked by the Duterte administration.

BRP Jose Rizal

Launched on May 23, 2019 and commissioned on July 10, 2020, the BRP Jose Rizal was the first ever purpose-built, missile-equipped frigate of the Philippine fleet. It was acquired together with the BRP Antonio Luna, in the same military deal with HHI Inc.

The pro-Duterte vlogger’s post on the frigates emerged two days after the Philippine Navy held on Nov. 14 a joint maritime exercise with Japan. It got 30,000 reactions, 3,600 comments, and 4,600 shares.

FB pages Duterte’s Angel and Republic Defenders were among the post’s top traffic generators, while a netizen uploaded the post on FB group SOLID DDS DUTERTE. The posts generated a total of 731 interactions.

Duterte’s Angel was created in September 2015, Republic Defenders in September 2016, and SOLID DDS DUTERTE in November 2020.

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(Editor’s Note: VERA Files has partnered with Facebook to fight the spread of disinformation. Find out more about this partnership and our methodology.)