THE Philippine Navy’s BRP Gregorio Del Pilar vessel ran aground late Wednesday in the vicinity of Hasa-Hasa Shoal in the West Philippine Sea, a military official said Friday, August 31.
No one was hurt and the ship sustained only minimal damage, said Colonel Noel Detoyato, chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Public Affairs Office.
Malacañang expressed confidence that China would not stop the Philippines from retrieving the vessel, which is one of the Philippine Navy's largest warships.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr., in an interview with Palace reporters, said retrieval of the vessel is ongoing.
"I understand that efforts are being undertaken to retrieve the grounded Del Pilar. If you remember, this is the same Del Pilar that was sent by then President [Benigno Aquino III] to Scarborough, which led the Chinese to send multiple Coast Guard vessels to the area, leading to our exclusion from Scarborough Shoal," he said.
"It's ongoing, with no problems from China," the Palace official added.
Detoyato said the BRP Gregorio Del Pilar was patrolling the area when it ran aground Wednesday night, August 29, in the vicinity of Hasa-Hasa Shoal (internationally known as Half Moon Shoal), which is about 60 nautical miles from the nearest point of Rizal town in Palawan.
Detoyato assured that none of the personnel on board have been hurt due to the incident.
“(‘Yung) side niya (ang tumama). Parang kumbaga Natapsingan lang bas a side,” he said.
“(Nasira ‘yung propeller but) not the main. The rudder on the main propeller kasi sa side niya ‘yung sumayad kasi may thruster yan sa side ‘yung kapag nagmamaneuver kay un ‘yung umaandar.. (Pero umaandar siya) kaya nga ‘yung crew intact pa rin doon kasi umaandar ang makina niya. All other systems are working...very minimal lang ang damage,” he added.
Detoyato said all afloat vessels in the Western Command area have already been mobilized to conduct assessment, retrieve the aground vessel and return it to safe harbor.
He said it may take two days before the rescuing vessels may reach the area.
“By next week wala na doon yun,” said Detoyato.
The official said investigation will take place after the rescue operations to find out what happened and come up with steps to ensure that similar incidents will be prevented.
The area near Hasa-Hasa Shoal is part of the territory being claimed by both China and the Philippines, with Beijing claiming almost the entire islands and features in the South China Sea.
In 2012, a Chinese Navy frigate also ran aground at the Hasa-Hasa Shoal.
The Philippine vessel is one of the Hamilton-class cutters acquired by the Philippine Navy from the United States Coast Guard in 2011 and converted into frigates. (SunStar Philippines)