Asia Defense

Vessel Transfer Puts South Korea-Philippines Defense Relations Into Focus

The ship’s pending arrival put the focus on the ongoing activity in Manila and Seoul’s defense relationship.

Vessel Transfer Puts South Korea-Philippines Defense Relations Into Focus

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

On August 5, Philippine officials disclosed that a vessel that South Korea had donated to Manila had begun its trip to the Southeast Asian country. The vessel’s impending arrival put the spotlight on the ongoing activity in the defense aspect of the relationship between them.

As I have noted before in these pages, while the defense relationship between South Korea and the Philippines includes a range of areas, including visits, exchanges, and exercises, the aspect that often receives the most attention are sales or transfers of equipment, be it fighter jets or frigates.

Among these is the donation of a Pohang-class corvette to the Philippines, which was subsequently assigned the name the BRP Conrado Yap. The vessel, which has been viewed as a boost to the Philippine Navy in various areas including an anti-submarine capability, was originally set to arrive in March or April. That timeline was delayed following the completion of dry-docking and repairs of the ship as well as training of the crew.

This week, the BRP Conrado Yap was in the headlines again as it prepared to sail to the Philippines. Per details disclosed by Philippine officials, the vessel was scheduled to begin setting sail to the Philippines shortly after handover ceremonies on August 5.

Per the Philippine News Agency (PNA), Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana confirmed that the BRP Conrado Yap would be sailing back to the Philippines on August 5 after being handed over to the flag officer in command, Vice Admiral Robert Empedrad. In addition, Philippine Navy spokesperson Jonathan Zata, while not disclosing further details, noted per PNA that the Conrado Yap would be escorted home by the strategic sealift vessel, BRP Davao Del Sur, which arrived in South Korea on August 2 after attending Russian Navy Day celebrations in Vladivostok in late July.

Speaking to the significance of the BRP Conrado Yap, Zata added that the ship would be a “welcome addition” to the Philippine Navy’s capabilities and would serve as a “critical transition platform” for the arrival of the Jose Rizal-class frigate next year, along with boosting the service’s firepower and providing sailors with an opportunity to train on anti-submarine warfare operations. The BRP Jose Rizal is expected to be delivered to the Philippine Navy by South Korea’s Hyundai Heavy Industries by April 2020, and its sister ship, the BRP Antonio Luna is expected by September of the same year.