MANILA – Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said on Friday the Australian shipbuilder Austal, which has a shipyard in Balamban Cebu, remains at the forefront in the ongoing procurement program for six offshore patrol vessels (OPVs) for the Philippine Navy (PN).
"Ang nasa forefront ng (At the forefront of the) procurement is the Australian (shipbuilder) Austal which is in (Balamban), Cebu. Meron silang branch na gumagawa din ng barko so kung matuloy yun maganda rin yan sa ekonomiya dahil maraming makikinabang na mga Pilipino (They have a branch that makes ships so if it pushes through, it will be good for the economy and the Filipinos will benefit from it), it will generate employment," Lorenzana said at the sidelines of the commissioning ceremony for the BRP Antonio Luna at Pier 13, South Harbor, Manila.
Lorenzana was responding to question on the Navy's next move on assets acquisition after the commissioning of the country's second missile frigate.
He also expressed hope that they can sign the contract before the end of President Rodrigo R. Duterte's term.
The OPV project is expected to replace the World War II surface assets decommissioned by the Navy.
"I hope we can sign the contract before the end of the President's tenure. Medyo matagal yung proseso (The process is taking a bit long)," Lorenzana said.
After the OPVs, another project for the PN is the procurement for two modern corvettes, which is the smallest surface combatant capable of engaging submarines and other vessels.
Once these assets are all acquired, Lorenzana said the PN will have a sufficient number of ships to safeguard the country's vast maritime territories and call itself a credible naval force.
Aside from these ships, also to be acquired are two more landing docks for transport and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions and small patrol craft for coastal or inter-island missions.
Both BRP Jose Rizal (FF-150) and the newly-commissioned BRP Antonio Luna are capable of surface, sub-surface, air, and electronic warfare using state-of-the-art electronic sensors, long-range missiles, acoustic guided torpedoes, and an embarked anti-submarine helicopter.
The BRP Antonio Luna left Ulsan, South Korea last February 5 and arrived in the Capones Island in Zambales on February 9.
The contract for the two ships was placed at PHP16 billion, with PHP2 billion for weapon systems and munitions. (PNA)