15 Juli 2015
BRP Sierra Madre LT-57 (photo : smartage)
MANILA (PNA) -- The Philippine Navy (PN) on Tuesday admitted that "minor repairs" are now being conducted to the rust-streaked and dilapidated BRP Sierra Madre (LT-57), Philippine ship that ran aground on Ayungin Shoal since 1999.
"By conducting minor repairs in the vessel, the Philippine Navy merely ensures that the men the renowned media firm described as '...troops staying there struggling to survive extreme mental and physical desolation,' would not be neglected," PN spokesperson Col. Edgard Arevalo said.
However, he did not specify the repairs made to the ship.
BRP Sierra Madre is the Navy transport serving as the Philippine outpost off the Spratly Islands.
It is located atop Ayungin Shoal(known internationally as Second Thomas Shoal). It is a commissioned vessel with personnel on board. It behooves the Philippine Navy to ensure the ship's habitability and safety.
"The decrepit condition of the ship is no secret. Such sorry state has gained notoriety when it was reported by an international print media," he said.
Arevalo added that PN flag-officer-in-command Vice Admiral Jesus C. Millan prioritizes the welfare of personnel assigned in the front lines.
"Be it ships in distant Kalayaan Island Group or the Marines in the jungles of Sulu, Basilan, and Central Mindanao-- are attended to does not violate any law or convention. It conforms to internationally accepted principles of human rights," he added.
"Just as the Philippine Navy is morally and duty bound to resupply its personnel with food, water, medicines, and other basic necessities, it is incumbent upon the navy leadership to ensure that the minimum survivable condition of the ship is accorded to its personnel on board," Arevalo further said.
Western Command chief Vice Admiral Alexander Lopez vehemently denied earlier reports claiming that the Philippines was using cement to reinforce the foundations of the rusted transport.
"We are not doing any construction or anything. We are merely improving the accommodations of our people deployed there," Lopez said in Filipino.
"We are just maintaining (the ship) to give better accommodations to our troops," he added.
The Western Command chief also stressed that the Philippines' arbitration case would weaken should the country engage in construction activities in the disputed area.
The "BRP Sierra Madre" ran aground in 1999 and was eventually used by the Philippines as an outpost to assert sovereignty in the area.