The Philippine News Agency reported that the Philippine Naval Task Force (NTF) 82, which consists of the landing dock, BRP Davao Del Sur (LD-602), and BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PS-16), have finally resumed their voyage home from the Port of Cochin, India on Wednesday. The two ships will make a brief stop at the Port of Colombo, Sri Lanka on Friday to repatriate 12 more Filipino tourists and overseas workers stranded due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic. The two ships originally sailed from the Port of Cochin on May 7 for their voyage home but a fire on the engine room of BRP Ramon Alcaraz a few hours after departing forced the offshore patrol vessel back into the Indian port for repairs.
Meanwhile, the BRP Davao Del Sur which proceeded alone on May 9 and has already reached Sri Lanka on May 11, opted to return to India port due to rough weather caused by Cyclone “Amphan” that battered eastern India and Bangladesh. The 12 other repatriates will join the 19 Filipino tourists earlier picked up in India aboard the BRP Davao Del Sur in separate rooms. These repatriates in separate rooms inside LD-602 (will be monitored 24-hours) by an onboard medical team. LD602 originally left for Manila by itself on May 9 and already reached Sri Lanka when it was compelled to return to India to take shelter from the brewing storm in the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea.
The delay gave ample time for BRP Ramon Alcaraz, the other component of NTF 82, to complete repairs to its damaged engine room with help from the Indian government. The Philippines existing defense cooperation with India paved the way for the latter’s Navy to provide expertise and assistance to Philippine Navy personnel, leading up to the restoration of the ship’s main propulsion, generators, auxiliary systems and other essential equipment. PS-16 has been restored to being seaworthy and is now sailing in convoy with LD-602. However, transport of materiel and other support from US Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) was delayed due to the unavailability of flights amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
The two ships were deployed to Oman last February as a contingency measure should a large evacuation of overseas Filipino workers be needed following tensions between the United States and Iran. They sailed from Sultan Qaboos, Oman last April 21 and arrived in India on April 29 to fetch a donation of 200,000 pieces of face mask from a Filipino businessman based in that country, as well as Filipino tourists who were stranded due to the Covid-19 outbreak. NAVSEA will assist the Philippines in repairing the BRP Ramon Alcaraz which was acquired in the US in 2013, NAVSEA subject matter experts and needed logistics will be available once BRP Ramon Alcaraz reaches Subic Bay, Zambales.