President-elect Duterte announced in a press conference that he intended to put up the Presidential Yacht, Ang Pangulo (AT-25), for sale. The following is an excerpt from a GMA news report.
DAVAO CITY — Presumptive president Rodrigo Duterte on Sunday said he will put presidential yacht, the BRP Ang Pangulo, up for sale to the highest bidder.
Duterte said this in an interview with reporters at Hotel Elena after meeting with prospective chiefs of the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines.
Both President Estrada and President Aquino made similar statements prior to being sworn into office, and for good reason. A “Presidential Yacht” smacks of government excess. A luxury item that a poor country could ill-afford.
But is a yacht really all it can be?
Given how long it takes government to acquire assets through its byzantine procurement process, prudence demands continual exploration of other options for a historical asset that is already in the government’s possession. Additional hulls, especially new-build ones, could very well take years to obtain. The AT-25 is already there!!!
Suitability of the ship for Coast Guard duties will depend on its internal configuration, the material condition of the ship, as well as its hydrodynamic and sea-keeping performance. However, barring any major issues in these areas of consideration, the following facets of the AT-25’s design holds interesting potential for the PCG.
A common engagement tactic among protagonists in EEZ conflicts — from the Cod War of the 60’s between Iceland and the UK, and in the West Philippine Sea today — is ramming. The following video below shows one such between the Chinese and Vietnamese Coast Guard shows how such an engagement can occur. With a displacement of 2,239 tons, the AT-25 — theoretically — has sufficient mass to engage in such encounters with all but the largest Chinese Coast Guard vessels.
The current largest PCG vessels, the 56-meter Tenix Search and Rescue Vessels, have a range of 2,000 miles at 15 knots. In contrast, the AT-25 has a range of 6,900 miles travelling at identical speed. This makes the AT-25 an interesting platform for long-endurance patrols, or for conducting extended surveillance on Chinese vessels that are anchored within our EEZ.
|Photo from Interaskyon.com. Chinese Coast Guard vessel anchored off Ayungin shoal|
Mobile Coast Guard station
Given its current role as a command and control vessel, which will be taken over by the Tarlac class SSVs, the AT-25 is also well suited to function as a mobile Coast Guard Station. One that can be moved at will, anchored at a troublespot, and have the endurance to stay on station far longer than any existing PCG or BFAR vessels — all without taking purpose-built SAR vessels away from their normal duties.
Improve its sensor-suite and it could theoretically perform, at the very least, as a Vessel Traffic Management System platform, or a most a radar picket vessel.
The US implemented a similar concept in the Persian Gulf with its Afloat forward staging base-interim concept. The American solution, which is based on the retired LPD USS Ponce, however is at a much grander scale. As shown in the previous section, the Chinese Coast Guard is also performing this function in Ayungin. If the Ayungin station becomes uninhabitable, and a replacement facility remains elusive, AT-25 could theoretically take its place.
Coupled with the range advantage described above, the AT-25 is also a potential Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat (RHIB) carrier. RHIBs are essential for conducting Visit, Board, Search, and Siezure (VBSS) operations which are integral to the PCG’s Maritime Law Enforcement (MARLEN) mission. The ship has existing davits for the embarkation of motor launches. These davits, however, could theoretically either be modified, or replaced entirely, to launch RHIBs in the same manner as the Del Pilar Class frigates.
|Motor launch on AT-25||RHIB on Del Pilar Class frigate. Photo taken while PF-15 was still in Alameda, CA|
Tale of the stats
To get the ball rolling on discussions in this direction, the following is a comparison between it and the largest rescue vessel in the PCG inventory: the 56-meter Tenix Search and Rescue Vessel.