SENATE FRIGATE DEAL HEARING. Presidential assistant Christopher Bong Go testifies before the Senate committee on the controversial acquisition of frigates for the Philippine Navy as Defense Chief Delfin Lorenzana listens. The Senate cleared Go of allegations that he meddled in the contract.
PASAY CITY — The Navy’s Frigate Acquisition Project (FAP) is aboveboard and will be strictly completed in accordance to the country’s procurement laws.
This was emphasized by Department of National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana during a Senate hearing on the frigate project which when completed will make the Philippine Navy more capable to fight incursions in the West Philippine Sea, Philippine Rise and the entire Philippine territory.
“The DND is ensuring that the procurement process for the frigates are done and completed strictly in accordance with our laws, namely, Republic Act 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act, and 10349 (the Revised AFP Modernization Program),” Lorenzana said.
The FAP was dragged into controversy following reports over alleged preference for a particular brand of combat management system (CMS) which will be fitted to the two frigates and that presidential assistant Christopher Bong Go allegedly meddled in the deal.
Go denied the allegations during the Senate hearing attended by many Cabinet members who came to support him. The Senate panel cleared Go in the controversy even as several senators led by Juan Miguel Zubiri, Loren Legarda and Manny Pacquiao spoke highly of him during the hearing. Navy officials also vouched for Mr. Go.
“Unfazed by all of the accusations, allegations, and malicious stories, we have come here today, at the gracious invitation of this august body, to shed light on the two aforementioned subjects of this inquiry and to present the facts,” Lorenzana said.
The DND is standing by Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI)’s decision to use the Hanwha CMS for the two ships while former Philippine Navy flag-officer-in-command Vice Admiral Ronald Joseph Mercado is batting for the Thales Tacticos system.
“For the first time in our nation’s history, we have a chance to own a modern state-of-the-art military hardware such as the two frigates which we are acquiring for the Philippine Navy for the first time ever. This is the biggest single procurement so far in the history of the Armed Forces of the Philippines,” he added.
But, the DND chief stressed that there appears to be a concerted effort by some to cast doubt on the acquisition project, the entire procurement system, and the people behind it, even calling for cancellation of the FAP contract.
“The issues thrown against the frigate acquisition project is hurting the very institution that is tasked to defend our country from internal and external threats,” he added.
Lorenzana also tagged Mercado as the person behind the deliberate attempt to delay or stop the FAP.
“That Vice Admiral Mercado was insistent in his desire to enforce his will on the builder of the frigates, Hyundai, to install a specific brand of combat management system or CMS in the two frigates, which is clearly prohibited under our procurement law,” the DND chief added.
Also, Lorenzana pointed out the former PN chief, on many occasions, challenged and usurped his authority such as directing the owner’s team in South Korea; exerted his influence on the project management team and intervened in the processes and outcome of the project; and threatened to have the contract canceled if his preferred CMS was not installed;
“That the loss of trust and confidence of the Secretary of National Defense resulting from his actions leading to insubordination was the reason for his relief as flag-officer-in-command,” the DND chief added.
Also, Lorenzana earlier said it was Mercado who had the specification “Tactical Data Link 16” or the ability to transmit and receive data from various platforms in a bid to justify the preference for the Thales Tacticos CMS.
“Hindi ko alam may motivation siningit nila nung tapos na technical specifications nung Link 16, baka (para) ma-disqualify ang Hanhwa (I didn’t know there was this motivation that they have inserted when the technical specifications of Link 16 were done. Maybe, it’s for Hanhwa’s disqualification),” he added.
The DND chief added that this specification was not present in the original specifications. Also, Lorenzana said he has no objections to acquiring the Thales Tacticos CMS provided that adequate funds are allotted for it.
The FAP has a contract of P18 billion including the weapon systems and munitions.
Earlier, the DND chief said that using the Thales Tacticos CMS will shoot the price of the frigates by US$7 million per ship or US$14 million for the two vessels. (firstname.lastname@example.org)