More than a hundred Filipino-Americans and other well-wishers welcomed the Philippine Navy's newest ship, BRP Gregorio del Pilar (PF-15), as it arrived at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam (JBPHH), July 27 for a brief port visit.
Commanded by Capt. Alberto A. Cruz, Gregorio del Pilar left Alameda, Calif. on July 18 to make its maiden voyage to the Republic of the Philippines where it will join the Philippine Fleet. Gregorio del Pilar is a former U.S. Coast Guard cutter, USCGC Hamilton (WHEC 715). As a multi-mission surface combatant ship, it becomes the first gas-turbine jet engine-powered vessel in the Philippine Navy Fleet.
"This is very historic moment," said Col. Restituto Padilla, the Filipino military liaison assigned at U.S. Pacific Command. "That's why we have the Filipino community here in force. This is the first time a Philippine Navy ship pulls into historic Pearl Harbor. Coupled with that, this is the first Philippine Navy ship that is gas-turbine. In these two instances, they are milestones. I hope this will be followed through by many more ship visits to historic Pearl Harbor in the months and years to come."
Navy Region Hawaii Command Master Chief Marc Sibal rallied the Filipino-American community in Hawaii to the JBPHH piers to greet the ship. Members of the U.S. Air Force, Army, Marines and Coast Guard also attended the event.
"I feel proud, very proud of it," said Sibal. "Even if I'm serving in the U.S. Navy, I'm still Filipino by culture and by heart. It's nice to see the Philippine Navy modernize their fleet. We are very uplifted, and I think everybody is very honored to have this ship pull into Pearl Harbor, to a historic place like Pearl Harbor."
Sibal, who previously served as Seventh Fleet Command Master Chief, said that the relationship between the U.S. and the Republic of the Philippines remains strong and that the ship is an example of the well-built relationship between the two countries.
Prior to taking command of the ship, 74 members of the Philippine Navy underwent two months of intensive hands-on training aboard USCGC Boutwell (WHEC 719), the sister ship of the Hamilton. While aboard Boutwell, the crew traveled to Colombia, Ecuador and El Salvador, participating in multiple missions including the interdiction of drug smugglers.
"Our partnership with the United States has been here for so many years," said Padilla. "It's getting stronger through the years. I hope this will mark a new era, as we embrace new challenges. As new security environments emerge, our partnership with the United States would get even stronger and become more relevant in the years to come."
Deputy Consul General Paul Cortes, of the Philippine Consulate in Honolulu; Capt. Jeffrey James, commander of JBPHH; and Capt. William Johnson, commanding officer of USS Lake Erie (CG 70), host ship during the port visit, were also at the pier to welcome the ship.
During the three-day port visit, Gregorio del Pilar will take on supplies and fuel, hold a reception hosted by the Philippine Consulate General in Honolulu and the Philippine Celebrations Coordinating Committee of Hawaii (PCCCH), and visit the USS Arizona Memorial. A social media "tweetup" is being planned during the ship's visit. A Catholic Mass will be conducted prior to their departure.
Gregorio del Pilar and USS Reuben James (FFG 57) are scheduled to conduct a Passing Exercise (PASSEX) off the coast of Hawaii next week. PASSEX is an exercise designed to increase interoperability between the two navies, while enhancing the strong cooperative relationship.
Article by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (SW) Mark Logico, Commander Navy Region Hawaii Public Affairs