Military firms up five-year submarine acquisition plan

The military will be acquiring “more than one” submarine under its 3-phase capability upgrade program, the second phase of which has been approved by President Duterte, and whose implementation is being vigorously pushed by defense and military officials.

While Department of National Defense spokesman Arsenio Andolong could not say how many submarines would be procured for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the official said it could be more than one as Navy officials spelled out the of acquiring such vessels.

The Philippine Navy has already created a “submarine group,” under the military’s Horizon 2 project. This early the Navy is already preparing its sailors on how to handle such underwater warship by sending them abroad for training and familiarization.

The capability upgrade program of the military, which was crafted and first implemented during the Aquino administration, is divided into three phases – Horizon 1, 2 and 3 – with the second phase covering 2018 up to 2022.

Andolong said the submarine procurement program has become a priority, especially for the Navy, as it has been moved from Horizon 3 to Horizon 2, whose implementation has been delayed a little bit, owing to the completion of the projects identified under Horizon 1.

The Horizon 2, which is supposed to be the transition period of the military from its internal security to territorial security operations, carried a budget of P300 billion, which also covers other procurements from the Air Forces and the Army.

The Horizon 2 project also covered the acquisition of two corvettes and six offshore patrol vessels for the Navy, which wanted to acquire at least six brand new frigates, two of which, would be delivered by South Korean contractor Hyundai Heavy Industries in 2020.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana confirmed earlier the country’s plans to acquire a submarine, but clarified the procurement is covered under the third Horizon.

The defense chief, however, admitted that as early as this year, they were already scouting for such warship from possible sources such as South Korea and Russia and even other countries.

Lorenzana said the country really needs submarines for its security and in order for the military to beef up its capability.

He said the country’s neighbors like Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and even the tiny state of Singapore already have their submarines.

“It is only us who does not have it,” he said.

Malaysia and Vietnam are among the claimants in the South China Sea, and like the Philippines, are also pitted against China in the territorial dispute.

Lorenzana admitted that while the Duterte administration may usher the “submarine age” for the military, the delivery of subs may happen after the term of the President since it would take five up to eight years to build a submarine.

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Rene P. Acosta covers defense, law enforcement and national security for the paper. He had written for a number of publications, including abroad before he joined BusinessMirror. His works had appeared in the Center for Strategic and International Studies and Asia Pacific Defense Forum, both in the US. He took up regional security with the International Visitor Leadership Program, US. He is currently the chairman of the board of the Defense Press Corps of the Philippines which he had headed in 2009.