MANILA–There is no problem should the BRP Gregorio Velasquez (AGR-702) be deployed to do another oceanographic and hydrographic survey in the country’s newest territory, the 13-million hectare Benham Rise.
Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesperson Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla, in an interview Wednesday, said this because surveying and mapping of the country’s vast maritime territories is part and parcel of the Philippine Navy (PN)’s mandate.
The Benham Rise officially became part of Philippine territory after the United Nations formal award in 2012.
He also disclosed that the ship already conducted an initial study of Benham Rise shortly after her arrival and commissioning in the PN last April 2016.
In her first mission to Benham Rise, the ship and her team of academicians from the UP Maritime Science Institute conducted an initial cataloging and indexing of all marine life in the territory
Padilla said the BRP Gregorio Velasquez can always return to the Benham Rise to complete her research and other scientific missions that may be tasked upon her.
However, the AFP spokesperson refused to reveal on when the ship would sail again, citing reasons of operational security.
The BRP Gregorio Velasquez (formerly the R/V Melville) is one of the two ex-American ships pledged by then President Barack Obama during his visit to the Philippines during the APEC Leaders Summit in November 2015.
The other ship was the USCGC Boutwell which is now renamed the BRP Andres Bonifacio (FF-17) and the third Hamilton-class cutter in the PN service.
The BRP Gregorio Velasquez was commissioned into PN service in April 2016.
The R/V Melville was used in the 1976 movie King Kong, starring Jessica Lange.
It was used specifically because of its Hypoid propulsion drive (at that time), which allowed it to move sideways. This type of drive is used, on research vessels, for station keeping in the ocean over drill and coring sites.
Per policy, auxiliary research vessels are to be named after national scientists, hence her namesake, Dr. Gregorio Velasquez, a pioneer in Philippine physiology.
Velasquez was elected as academician on 1978 and conferred as National Scientist on 1982.
He was conferred with a Distinguished Science Medal and Diploma of Honor from the Republic of the Philippines (1956), the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship (1956-57), Men of Science, Division of Biological Sciences in 1969, World’s Who’s Who in Sciences in 1970 and the Republic of the Philippines Cultural Heritage award in 1972.