Sen. Joseph Victor G. Ejercito expressed disbelief over the insistence of a foreign supplier to dictate on a buyer what weapons system should be installed on two Navy frigates ordered by the Philippine government.
“I still cannot take it that the Philippine Navy is the end-user, but the shipbuilder, Hanjin Heavy Industries, has the option on what combat management system [CMS] they will install,” the lawmaker said.
The senator wondered why defense officials are not asserting the Navy’s initial choice on the CMS to be installed in the two newly acquired frigates.
“How did that happen?” Ejercito asked. “Why was this allowed in the contract?”
Ejercito bewailed that such an arrangement is “so disadvantageous for the Navy,” indicating that possible charges can be filed against public officials who allowed the one-sided provision. Under the anti-graft law, officials concerned can be held liable for entering into contracts found to be disadvantageous to the government.
This developed as Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph G. Recto suggested that if the government can buy P18-billion Navy ships, it can also acquire Philippine-made Pasig River ferry boats, as well as hospital ships and ferry boats.
Recto recommended that for a fraction of the P18-billion price tag of two Navy frigates, “the country can buy locally made Pasig River ferry boats, floating hospitals, environmental patrol boats and other ships needed by a disaster-prone archipelago where half of the towns lie along the coast.”
In a news statement issued on Tuesday, Recto reminded authorities concerned that the deficit in ships is not only in the Navy, but “also in civilian activities, such as Coast Guard patrol, calamity response and tapping Manila’s main waterway as an alternative to its car-choked streets.”
He added: “If we were able to find the means to buy our Navy more ships, then we should also be that ‘resourceful’ in meeting the needs of other agencies for more floating assets.”
Recto said the Duterte administration, in acquiring these ships, can opt to “buy Filipino[-made vessels] by tapping the vibrant shipbuilding industry” in President Duterte’s home province of Cebu, as well as in Navotas and in Subic, where Duterte last month led the launch of a half-kilometer-long megaship which can carry 20,950 40-foot container vans.
For instance, Recto recalled the two Navotas-made research ships commissioned by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources—the Lapu-Lapu and Francisco Dagohoy—which have been on research and enforcement patrol since their launch two years ago, noting that two ships cost the government “only P250 million each or equivalent to the down payment for the Dalian trains of MRT [Metro Rail Transit Line 3] that is not being used.”
Affirming that the Philippines is already recognized as the fourth-largest shipbuilder in the world, Recto asserts that “if other nations find our ships exceptional, then we should, too.”