P30-B Australian loan for ships at risk of being scrapped under Duterte order

Dharel Placido, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 30 2019 11:52 AM

MANILA - A P30 billion loan from Australia for the building of offshore patrol vessels is at risk of being scrapped due to the order of President Rodrigo Duterte to suspend aid from countries that sponsored and backed an inquiry into the Philippine war on drugs, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Monday.

Lorenzana said the defense department is currently in talks with the Australian government for the building of 6 offshore patrol vessels for the Philippine Navy.

The vessels will be built in Cebu, where Australian shipbuilder Austal has a presence. It would benefit many Filipino workers, Lorenzana said.

Lorenzana said he would seek an exemption for the loan should the defense department reach a deal with the Australian government.

“If we give it to them, they will employ more Filipinos. I think this is a very good case [for exemption] to the memo of the president,” he told a Senate budget hearing.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, who asked Lorenzana about which military deals he would seek exemption from the president’s order, agreed with the defense chief.

“It will benefit the armed forces and the shipbuilding economy. Hopefully the president will reconsider insofar as as the DND is concerned,” Drilon said.

Australia was one of the 18 countries which voted in favor of the Iceland-led United Nations resolutions which sought a review of the Philippines’ war on drugs.

The Palace has described the resolution as “designed to embarrass” the Philippines.

Rights groups have claimed that tens of thousands have died in the Philippine government's drug war. Police, meanwhile, said the death toll is below 6,000.

The government has repeatedly denied involvement in summary killings, saying drug suspects slain in police operations had resisted arrest.