One of the Philippine Navy's frigates ran aground at a shoal in the West Philippine Sea off Palawan late Wednesday night, an Armed Forces official reported Thursday night.
AFP public affairs chief Col. Noel Detoyato said efforts are underway to retrieve BRP Gregorio del Pilar, a former US Coast Guard cutter, from the Hasa-hasa Shoal or Half Moon Shoal, about 60 nautical miles from the nearest point of Rizal town in Palawan.
"All afloat vessels in the Western Command area have already been mobilized to conduct assessment, retrieve the aground vessel and return her to safe harbor, and assist all personnel aboard BRP Del Pilar," said Detoyato.
"Other assets from nearby AFP installations are also on standby for any contingency," said Detoyato.
Detoyato said no personnel onboard was reported hurt in the incident
"An investigation is expected in such situations to find out the possible causes of the grounding and to come up with steps to ensure that similar incidents will be prevented," said Detoyato.
The area is part of a long-drawn territorial dispute between China and the Philippines. China is claiming most of the islands and features in the South China Sea under its nine-dash-line claim.
A military official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the ship was conducting a routine when it figured in the mishap at the unoccupied shoal.
"That (shoal) is ours. It's well within our EEZ," said the official, referring to the country's 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone.
"It was on a routine patrol mission at night when it ran aground at the Hasa-hasa shoal," the source said of the ill-fated ship.
Asked if BRP Gregorio del Pilar was damaged, the official said: "We are still conducting assessment. Our recovery team is underway," the source said.
BRP Gregorio del Pilar was transferred to the Philippine Navy in 2011, through the US excess defense article program. Two other former US Coast Guard cutters, now BRP Ramon Alcaraz and BRP Andres Bonifacio, were also given to the Philippine Navy.
In 1999, landing ship tank BRP Siera Madre, a former US ship, also ran aground at the Ayungin Shoal or Second Tomas Shoal, about 105 nautical miles from Palawan, which China strongly protested. The rusting ship remains grounded at the shoal.
In 2012, a Chinese frigate also ran aground at the Hasa-hasa shoal. A Chinese salvage ship refloated the frigate days later and brought it back to China with minor damage. — BAP, GMA News