Navy changes tactic, eyes more bases amid sea row

THE Navy will soon be repositioning its vessels in a strategic naval base in Palawan to help the troops securing the country’s sovereignty amid the tensions in the West Philippine Sea, an official said on Sunday.

The naval base on Oyster Bay and at the headquarters of the Naval Forces West, both on Ulugan Bay, will be in the spotlight when President Benigno Aquino III visits Palawan as the guest speaker during the Navy’s 116th anniversary on Tuesday, said Marine Col. Edgard Arevalo, head of the Navy’s Civil Military Operations Group.

He said Aquino will visit Oyster Bay, the headquarters of the Naval Forces West and the piers being developed in the area.

Oyster Bay and the wharves in Naval Forces West will accommodate dozens of medium and large naval ships, and both are being developed fast to hasten the response time of troops during emergencies, Arevalo said.

“When fully developed, the bases will shorten the travel time of our vessels and minimize logistical expenditures,” he said.

The ships in Puerto Princesa City are the ones being deployed in the West Philippine Sea, but those have to travel several nautical miles  to reach the western side of the sea, consuming too much time and fuel.

But once Oyster Bay is finally converted into a modern naval base it will be able to accommodate destroyers and even cruiser ships.

Arevalo said the navy would also be putting up a repair and construction yard at the naval base.

“We will be able to save around 20,000 liters of diesel to our support vessels and shorten the travel time by around 32 hours in the deployment of ships to the West Philippine Sea,” Arevalo said.

The Philippine government recently proposed giving US troops access to Oyster Bay under the two countries’ Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement.

The repositioning of vessels in Palawan will boost the morale of the troops stationed there, particularly the Marines manning the grounded BRP Sierra Madre at the Ayungin Shoal, Arevalo said.

He said the main purpose of stationing vessels on Oyster Bay is to bring the Navy headquarters in Manila closer to the troops manning the command post in Palawan.

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