By Windsor Genova

Manila, Philippines

The Aquino government said Sunday its newest and biggest warship, a 1967-built U.S. Coast Guard cutter, will be delivered to Manila on Monday to add muscle to its most powerful navy vessel, a 1943-built destroyer-escort also from the U.S.

The 3,390-ton cutter named Hamilton was bought in March for $10 million in fulfillment of a promise by President Benigno Aquino III last year to modernize the military, according to presidential spokesman Abigail Valte. It will sail from San Francisco, California to the Philippines on Monday.

The new ship has a 29-knot speed, helipad and retractable hangar. At 378 feet long, it is longer than the circa World War II warship BRP Rajah Humabon, which is 306 feet long.

Hamilton, which is renamed BRP Gregorio del Pilar, will be used to patrol areas near the West Philippine Sea or South China Sea, where the disputed Spratly Islands is located.

Chinese warships have reportedly intruded in western Philippine territorial waters near the Spratly Islands and the Philippine Navy wants to guard the area against future intrusions.

The presidential palace said the new ship was not meant to agitate China, one of the claimants to the Spratlys.

The Chinese navy has 50 frigates, 26 destroyers, 10 submarines, 80 missile-armed warships and 200 fast attack crafts at its disposal in guarding its stake in the Spratlys.

Vietnam guards its Spratly claims with six submarines and two Russian-built, missile-firing frigates each weighing 2,000 tons and manned by 100 sailors. The Gepard class warships' firepower consists of a big cannon, torpedoes, anti-submarine rockets and a gun.

Malaysia, another claimant to the disputed islets, has two French-built submarines armed with torpedoes and anti-ship missiles.

Taiwan, which is also claiming part or the whole of Spratlys, has four submarines, 22 U.S.-made frigates, four destroyers and 30 missile boats. The rival of China is also developing a carrier and a stealth warship that can strike carriers.


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World - Philippines Adds 1967-Built Cutter to Back Up 1943-Built Warship For Spratlys Patrol | Global Viewpoint