Philippines buying 2 brand-new warships

Manila (Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN) - The Philippines is getting two brand-new frigates as part of the modernisation programme of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Defence Undersecretary Fernando Manalo said yesterday.

He told reporters that the Department of National Defence (DND) had earmarked 18 billion pesos (US$437 million) for the purchase of the two vessels through a public bidding. He said a number of countries, including South Korea, Spain and Singapore, would participate in the bidding.

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Manalo also disclosed that the DND had been negotiating for a government-to-government acquisition of 12 jet fighters from South Korea.

He said the DND had decided to scrap previous plans to acquire refurbished frigates since secondhand vessels would be more costly to maintain. He said the DND had allocated 9 billion pesos for each frigate, or fast warship.

"The purchase of the frigates has been in the pipeline," Manalo said. "We are just waiting for the Navy to submit their 'decision package.'After that, we will review it and issue an acquisition decision memorandum signed by (Defence) Secretary Voltaire Gazmin," he said.

Manalo said the process could take a week. "After that, we'll schedule one or two prebid conferences."

"We originally wanted to buy secondhand frigates but then we realised that it would be expensive in the long run if we are going to buy secondhand," he added.

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He noted that older ships required more maintenance repairs compared to new vessels. He said the DND had previously approved 6 billion pesos for each refurbished frigate.

The Philippine Navy has only one battleship, the 48-year-old Hamilton-class cutter BRP Gregorio del Pilar, which the Philippines acquired from the United States in 2011.

A second warship, the BRP Ramon Alcaraz, would finally sail to the Philippines in June after undergoing repairs in Charleston, South Carolina.

The Navy earlier said the Alcaraz, a 45-year-old frigate, was expected to arrive this month.

The Hamilton-class cutter was acquired for 450 million pesos by the AFP from the US Coast Guard on May 22, 2012, as part of the US government's military assistance programme for the Philippines.

Related story: China points finger at U.S. over Asia-Pacific tensions

In his State of the Nation Address last year, President Aquino announced that the Alcaraz would arrive from the United States in January 2013 as part of the much-needed AFP upgrade.

"We are not sending paper boats out to the sea. Now, our 36,000 kilometres of coastline will be patrolled by more modern ships," the President then said, referring to the decades-old vessel, which the US Coast Guard decommissioned on March 30, 2012.

Formerly known as USCGC Dallas, the AFP's second frigate was named after the late Commodoure Ramon Alcaraz, a World War II hero who commanded the Q-boat Abra, which shot down three Japanese aircraft.

Like its sister ship, the Alcaraz was classified as a high-endurance cutter built in 1968.

*US$1=41.3 pesos

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