MANILA, Philippines — The Navy on Thursday commissioned into service the two ships donated by Australia in a development seen to boost the Philippines's disaster response capabilities.
The two Landing Craft Heavy (LCH) vessels were formally handed over to the Philippines in a ceremony held in Cairns, Australia, Navy public affairs chief Commander Lued Lincuna said.
A memorandum of understanding transferring the two ships to the Philippines was signed by Navy chief Vice Adm. Jesus Millan and Royal Australian Navy chief Vice Adm. Tim Barret.
The LCH vessels are expected to arrive in the Philippines in the first week of August.
In his acceptance speech, Millan thanked the Australian Navy for donating the ships to the Philippine military, one of the weakest in the region.
The two LCH vessels are expected to enhance the Philippines's capability to transport personnel, equipment and aid during humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations.
"The vessels will also be useful in transporting troops from one operational area to another,” Lincuna said.
The two ships will be named after indigenous tribes of the Philippines. It is a tradition of the Navy to name landing craft ships after tribes.
One of the ships will be named BRP Ivatan after an indigenous group in Batanes while the other will be called BRP Batak after a tribe in Palawan. The two former vessels of the Royal Australian Navy used to be known as HMAS Tarakan and Brunei.
In an earlier interview, Millan said the Navy has five LCH in its inventory but only three of them are operational.
The Australian government announced its plan to provide the two transport ships to the Philippines in January. The donation will include a package of spare parts, according to the Australian defense ministry.
The two vessels were turned over to the Philippine Navy after being refurbished with new safety and navigation equipment.
The vessels were decommissioned from Australian service at a ceremony in Cairns on Nov. 19, 2014.
The Australian Embassy previously said the lack of sealift capability hampered efforts to help Philippine coastal areas hit by typhoon "Yolanda" (international name "Haiyan") in 2013.
The Philippines is one of the countries most vulnerable to disasters because of its location. About 20 typhoons, five to seven of which are destructive, enter the country every year.