Last week, the Philippines’ biggest warship kicked off 2018 with its first logistics run mission. The engagement put the focus on the activities of the BRP Tarlac amid broader discussions in the Philippine government about the future direction of the country’s naval modernization under Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.
As I have noted before, following a deal inked in 2014, Indonesia’s state-owned shipbuilder PT PAL delivered two Strategic Sealift Vessels (SSVs) to the Philippines. The export of the locally-built warships were seen as both a boost for Indonesia’s efforts to build up its domestic shipbuilding industry and a much-needed addition to the Philippine military, which remains one of the weakest in the region (See: “Will the Philippines Get More Indonesia-Made Warships?”).
The first of these, the BRP Tarlac, was sent through in May 2016, while the second, the BRP Davao Del Sur, was delivered in May 2017. According to previous specifications released by PT PAL, the SSVs delivered to the Philippines measure 123 meters long with a beam of 21.8 meters and a draught of six meters. The vessels have a full load displacement of about 11,583 tons, a maximum range of 9,360 nautical miles, an endurance of 30 days and a top speed of 16 knots. They can carry around 500 troops, and more than 4,000 tons of cargo on board.
Since then, they have been utilized in various ways as Philippine defense officials had highlighted before. Last year saw the BRP Tarlac participate in a range of activities despite encountering a collision, from transporting military equipment to operations in Mindanao during the siege of the southern city of Marawi which ended last November to carrying relief supplies to Tacloban City after tropical storm Urduja. It was also one of the Philippine vessels participating in the ASEAN Multilateral Naval Exercises 2017 (AMNEX) held in Thailand in November (See: “ASEAN’s First Naval Exercise in Perspective”).
From January 10 to 12, the BRP Tarlac carried out a three-day port call in Puerto Princesa, Palawan, as part of what local media outlets classified as its first logistics run mission in 2018. The port call comprised of a range of activities, including a welcome ceremony for the vessel’s officers and men as well as an open house that showcased its capabilities and provided an opportunity for residents to have a guided shipboard tour.
Commodore Rommel Jason L. Galang, Commander of Naval Forces West, also said that the BRP Tarlac had been loaded with supplies for the 3rd Marine Brigade and its Battalions in Northern and Southern Palawan, operational supplies for Naval Special Operations Unit-4, cargoes for ships in the area of responsibility (AOR), and other materials as part of its mission.