GLOBAL SHIPBUILDER. Austal Philippines President Wayne Murray briefs Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on a catamaran ship currently under construction at the company's facility in Arpili, Balamban town in Cebu on Wednesday afternoon (July 23, 2019). Lorenzana said the national government is tapping Austal Philippines for PHP30-billion contract to build six Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPV) for the Philippine Navy. (PNA photo by John Rey Saavedra)

BALAMBAN, Cebu – Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Wednesday said the shipbuilding industry in this town of Cebu province’s western corridor is facing a “big prospect” as the national government is poised to tap a local shipbuilder for its naval warfare capability buildup.

Lorenzana said an initial contract between the Department of National Defense (DND) and the leading global shipbuilder, Austal Philippines based in this western coastal town here would amount to PHP30-billion for six Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPV) for the Philippine Navy.

“It’s very big. The prospect is good. Now we know that there is a company here like Austal to actually build our ships. We have been waiting for this time that somebody else could build our ships according to our specifications and I think they are qualified to do that,” Lorenzana said during a short press briefing after inspecting the John Rothwell Assembly Bay of Austal.

Lorenzana and Trade and Industry Sec. Ramon Lopez were toured by the shipbuilder’s executives to its 120-meter long, 43-meter wide, and 41-meter high assembly yard situated at the West Cebu Industrial Park in the village of Arpili here.

He noted that Austal has been contracted to build naval vessels for the US Navy.

“They also made ships for the US Navy and we must as well use or utilize them instead of outsourcing our shipbuilding aboard,” he said, adding that “if we can do the paper works fast we could be signing the contract by even this year.”

The latest naval vessel outsourced abroad is the Jose Rizal-class Frigate, a class of two multi-role semi-stealth frigates build by the Hyundai Heavy Industries in Korea, with design specifically accommodated to fit the requirements of the Philippine Navy.

In procuring the six OPVs from Austal, the DND chief said the government-to-government procurement process is much preferred than any other modes of procurement under the Government Procurement Reform Act (R.A. 9184).

“There are several modes of procurement as stipulated in our procurement law. And one of them is government to government. When we need specific equipment… then we go to government to government. It’s easy, it’s fast, and it is guaranteed by the other government, threre is sovereign guarantee of the things that we will buy,” Lorenzana explained.

Tapping Cebu’s shipbuilding industry for the Navy’s modernization of its fleet “will force us to put up an integrated steel mill or even aluminum mill” in Cebu in order to meet the demand of Austal for stainless and aluminum steel for its ships.

Austal said it earlier expressed interest to build six OPVs for the Navy.

“The vessels offered by Austal are a larger variant of the Cape-class patrol vessels used by the Royal Australian Navy and Australian Border Force,” Austal said in a statement.

Austal’s chief executive officer, David Singleton said the contract that they will get from the Philippine government will translate to more hundreds of job opportunity here.

“So far, we have thousands of people working in this shipyard. If there are government contracts here of course that would expand the number of workers here quite significantly and may even require us to build additional facilities,” Singleton said during the press briefing.

The newly expanded state of the art facilities have multiplied the company’s capacity, which make it capable to immediately build OPVs for the Philippine Navy.

According to its company profile, Austal has designed and constructed over 300 vessels for over 100 operators in 54 countries, a reputation it carries for 30 years now.

Aside from its shipyard here, Austal also has modern shipbuilding assembly yards in Australia, US, and Vietnam. (PNA)