MANILA – The Philippines has signed a contract with South Korean firm Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) for the construction of two brand new frigates for the Philippine Navy worth P15.74 billion.
The frigates’ purchase is described as the single most expensive project yet that will be signed by the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte and the biggest project yet for the Philippine Navy.
“Most importantly, this marks the entry of the PN [Philippine Navy] into its quest to be a strong and credible navy by year 2020,” said Naval Public Affairs Office director Captain Lued Lincuna.
“The acquisition of the two brand new and modern Frigates serves as a ‘big step’ in realizing a once a dream of a world class and well equipped Philippine Navy, capable and credible in protecting its people, and the sovereignty of the land and the interest of its national territory.”
HHI said the frigates, which can be armed with missiles, torpedo, guns, and sensors controlled by the latest combat management system, are capable of conducting Anti-Air Warfare, Anti-Surface Warfare, Anti-Submarine Warfare and Electronic Warfare.
The frigates are scheduled to be turned over starting 2020, the firm added.
The P15.74-billion deal was initiated by the Aquino administration, which sought to upgrade the Philippines’ military capabilities in the face of Chinese aggression in the South China Sea.
The Aquino administration had also purchased 12 fighter jets from South Korean firm Korean Aerospace Inc. The delivery of all 12 fighter jets will be completed in 2017.
Duterte, however, has brushed off the previous administration’s purchase of the fighter jets, saying the high-tech purchase does not suit the country’s objective of ending insurgencies.
The purchase of big-ticket items was initiated by the previous administration with the aim of establishing a “minimum credible defense” in the face of Chinese aggression in the South China Sea.
Duterte, however, has opted to set aside the Philippines’ bitter sea dispute with China in exchange for a more vibrant trade relations with Beijing.
At the same time, Duterte has indicated his dislike for the Philippines’ military cooperation with its long-time ally, the US, in what is widely seen as a victory for China in the geopolitical front.
MORE ITEMS ON THE WAY
The Philippines in September proposed a 14 percent rise in defense spending next year to fund a five-year P82-billion military modernization program to catch up with its neighbors in Southeast Asia.
A senior defense official told Reuters the Philippines would also buy eight amphibious assault vehicles from the United States, plus three anti-submarine helicopters and two long-range patrol aircraft from a European defence contractor.
A contract for three aerial radars worth P2.6 billion had been earlier awarded to an Israeli contractor.
The latest defense buys reflect an intent by Manila to diversify its military equipment away from reliance on the United States, its former colonial overseer, which was its primary source of armaments.
From 2002 to 2011, the United States provided nearly $500 million in military assistance to the Philippines for sales, education, training and counter-terrorism, according to the U.S. embassy.
Additionally, the United States has provided three ships - two Hamilton-class cutters and a Cyclone-class cutter - and some 20 Vietnam War-era American helicopters. - with a report from Reuters