BRP Gabriela Silang, the Philippine Coast Guard’s newest offshore patrol vessel (OPV), is currently docked in Malta after having been diverted from its scheduled maiden voyage to the Philippines to prepare for the possible repatriation of Filipino citizens in the Middle East in the event that ongoing tensions between the United States and Iran erupt into hostilities.
The 84-metre OPV left Saint-Nazaire, France, for its maiden voyage on December 30, 2019, and was initially scheduled to reach Manila on February 10, 2020. However, as directed by the Philippine government, the vessel’s arrival has been postponed to give way to preparations for the evacuation of affected citizens should it become necessary.
On Wednesday, January 8, coast guard officials confirmed that Gabriela Silang and its 35-strong crew are on standby at Malta Freeport for deployment to either Oman or the UAE.
If hostilities erupt, the vessel will ferry evacuated citizens to other countries in the region from which they could be safely airlifted to the Philippines.
The coast guard said that the OPV could operate for up to five weeks at sea and transport as many as 500 people at one time if the need arises.
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