MANILA After 38 years of service, the Philippine Navy (PN) has formally retired its oldest warship, the BRP Rajah Humabon (PS-11), one of the last World War II-era warships still in active service, during short ceremonies in Sangley Point, Cavite Thursday morning.
This was confirmed by Philippine Fleet spokesperson Lt. Sahirul Taib in a message Thursday.
The retirement of BRP Rajah Humabon is in-line with the Navy's Strategic Sail Plan of "moving to legacy vessels to more and capable and modern vessels," he added.
As of this posting, the Navy is awaiting the completion and delivery of two missile-armed frigates from South Korean shipbuilder Hyundai Heavy Industries.
The contract is worth PHP18 billion, including weapon systems and munitions, with the delivery of the first ship expected by 2020.
Once commissioned in Philippine service, the frigates will give the Philippine Navy an anti-air, anti-surface, anti-submarine and electronic warfare capability.
The decommissioning is also in line with Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana's directive to retire the Navy's remaining World War II-era warships due to their old age which also requires expensive maintenance.
"Yes, my directive is to fast track the decommissioning of World War II vintage ships. They are old and uneconomical to maintain," Lorenzana added.
Prior to the arrival of the BRP Gregorio Del Pilar (FF-15) in 2011 and BRP Ramon Alcaraz (FF-16) in 2013, the BRP Rajah Humabon together with the three Jacinto-class patrol vessels (formerly the Royal Navy's Peacock class patrol ships) served as the backbone of the PN and acted as its flagship.
It also served a ceremonial ship welcoming arriving foreign warships in Manila Bay. BRP Rajah Humabon started life as the US Navy destroyer escort, the USS Atherton (DE-169), in 1943.
She was mostly assigned at the Atlantic theater doing patrols and anti-submarine missions.
The USS Atherton was credited of having destroyed a German U-boat, the U-853 off the coast of Rhode Island, on May 9, 1945.
She served in the Pacific theater in the middle of 1945 until she was decommissioned and placed in reserve on Dec. 10 of the same year.
The ship was later was transferred to the Japanese government as JDS Hatsuhi (DE-263) on June 14, 1955. Together with her sister ship JDS Asahi (DE-262), they became one of the first warships of the newly-organized Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force.
As new ships became available to the JMSDF, both ships were decommissioned and returned to the US Navy on June 1975.
Laid-up in Japan, she was transferred to the Philippine government on Sept. 13, 1976 and was sold as an Excess Defense Article on Dec. 23, 1978.
She was then renamed as the RPS Rajah Humabon (PS-78), and was towed to South Korea for an extensive refit and modernization in 1979.
Source: Philippine News Agency