Department of National Defense spends P5.56 billion on two new warships

Model of 123m landing platform dock (LPD) from PT PAL offered to the Department of National Defense (DND) and Philippine Navy. Photo: PT PAL (Persero) via MaxDefense Philippines/Facebook
Model of 123m landing platform dock (LPD) from PT PAL offered to the Department of National Defense (DND) and Philippine Navy. Photo: PT PAL (Persero) via MaxDefense Philippines/Facebook

Peso rates are still low and oil prices are still high, despite small developments. Even then, the Philippine Navy (PN) secured two new landing platform docks (LPDs) after former Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana struck a P5.56 billion deal with PT PAL Indonesia (Persero) on June 24.

This was before Lt. Gen. Jose Faustino, Jr. was sworn-in as DND’s office-in-charge (OIC) in Lorenzana’s place.

The Indonesian state’s ship manufacturer offered an upgraded version of the Tarlac-class marine transport, with DND previously eyeing to improve their BRPs [“Barko ng Republikang Pilipinas” in Filipino] Tarlac and Davao del Sur. These capabilities included being able to travel beyond 9,300 nautical miles and reaching a speed of at most 16 knots.

Previously, DND failed to secure a bid for two LPDs four times since 2019. Talks between Megaship Builders and an unnamed “lowest bidder” shipbuilder from Malaysia fell through (due to the latter lacking equipment and facilities) on the third attempt. Then in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic further delayed the bidding process.

Billions down the drain

Attempts to modernize the Philippine military can be traced back to when ex-Pres. Fidel Ramod signed the Republic Act (RA) 7898 in 1995. After ending in 2011 and following disputes with China over the West Philippine Sea, the late Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III revived and extended the plan to 15 years, starting in 2013 and is set to end in 2028.

Since December 2021, DND has shopped 'till they dropped for other military deals before Rodrigo Duterte’s presidency came to an end this 2022. These included separate purchases of 16 and 32 Black Hawk choppers for the Philippine AIr Force from the Polish company PZL Mielec. Each is respectively worth P12.1 billion and P32 billion.

Meanwhile, six offshore patrol vessels (OPVs) for the Navy were bought for P30 billion from the Australian firm Austal.

Just this June 27, DND tapped Hyundai Heavy Industries’ Ulsan, South Korea shipyard to develop six patrol ships, as well as to upgrade two frigates the latter manufactured before. The contract is worth around P31 billion.

In January this year, multi-sectoral alliance Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) condemned the Philippine Army’s purchase of armored vehicles from Israel for an unspecified amount.

They asked “can people feel pride if the army will parade the tanks and howitzers when millions are out of job, hungry, homeless, disconnected, and sick?”

BAYAN also noted the irony of Duterte initially claiming to have little to no money left for Typhoon Odette (which hit the Philippines in December 2021) and pandemic relief efforts, yet having several billions for military contracts. They demanded for health and education concerns, as well as disaster relief and rehabilitation efforts to be prioritized instead.

“The last thing the people need right now are modern tanks and howitzers. Only a fascist government will preen over its new acquisitions for warfare while the nation is on the brink of mass starvation and social misery,” BAYAN concluded.

The Philippines has reached a total national government debt of P12.68 trillion as of March 2022. As of today (July 9, 2022), the country’s inflation rate just hit 6.1%.

Reuben Pio Martinez is a news writer who covers stories on various communities and scientific matters. He regularly tunes in to local happenings. The views expressed are his own.

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