MANILA, Philippines - Two Italian warships are set to strengthen the Philippines' maritime defense capabilities, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said Thursday.
Gazmin said the Philippine Navy is buying the P11.7-billion Maestrale-class frigates , which have anti-submarine and anti-aircraft weaponry.
The move is part of the Armed Forces' modernization program, the defense chief said at a forum in Camp Aguinaldo.
"These frigates are warships. These have anti-air, sub-surface, they have anti-submarine (capabilities). What we are getting are really meant for war," Gazmin said.
The frigates, which were commissioned in the 1980s, are being used by the Italian Navy.
He said the Navy is waiting for the approval of contract that is expected to be signed in January 2013.
The ships will then be delivered by November after they are refurbished.
"These are operational. They are being used by the Italian Navy. They will be refurbished and overhauled," Gazmin said.
The Philippine Navy bought a Hamilton-class cutter from the US Coast Guard for about P400 million last year. A similar vessel is expected to be delivered to the Navy within the next few month.
"These will be a big help because they will be giving us a very good defense posture," Garzmin said. "These will help in guarding (our territory), against terrorism, enforcement of maritime laws."
Fernando Manalo, defense undersecretary for finance, munitions, installations and materiel, said a separate P3.2-billion contract for the purchase of 10 attack helicopters from Eurocopter could be signed this month.
The helicopters will be delivered this year if the contract gets the green light.
Multi-role fighter jets
The Department of National Defense is also eyeing KAI T-50 Golden Eagle supersonic advanced trainers and multi-role fighters from South Korea.
Manalo said Malacañang has received the department's proposal to buy the aircraft.
"We are also looking at other options for the lead-in (fighters) but to be specific, based on our assessment, it is the T-50 of South Korea that is most advantageous to us in consideration to the obtaining situation in the West Philippine Sea and what is affordable to us," he said.
However, the T-50's purchase will rely on the modernization law that is still being deliberated by Congress.
"We have been engaging the company (Korea Aerospace Industries) and for as long as the contract is signed before the end of the year, then the target of 2 years delivery period is still doable," Manalo said.