(PNA file photo) 

MANILA – Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Wednesday said he is inclined to endorse to the next defense chief the contract for the offshore patrol vessels (OPVs) which is worth PHP30 billion to avoid midnight deal allegations.

"Six yan (OPVs), kung maayos natin yan yung mga papeles I might also endorse it to the next Secretary of Defense para makita naman nya kung ano ang mangyari, kasi kung pirmihan ko yan baka sabihin midnight (deal) [That project consists of six (OPVs) and if we are able to complete all the documents, I might endorse it to the next Secretary of Defense, so he could have a look at it. This is to avoid midnight deal allegations]," he said when asked by reporters if he has any projects that he will endorse to the next administration at the sidelines of this year's Asian Defense and Security (ADAS) exhibition held at the World Trade Center in Pasay City.

Lorenzana said that former Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin did the same to him regarding the two missile-frigates of the Philippine Navy (PN).

He said that Gazmin did all the initial works on the project but did not sign it as his term was about to end at the time to avoid midnight deal accusations.

The DND earlier said it is now looking for new proponents for the PN's procurement of six OPVs due to pricing issues with Australian shipbuilder Austal. "Pending our approval of the contract for the purchase, they (Austal) said the cost has increased -- materials, labor and everything. They asked for additional payment. I think our budget is PHP30 billion, so they want PHP12 billion more for the six OPVs or they said we can reduce the number from six to five," Lorenzana said.

He added that he can no longer ask the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) for additional funding. However, he also said reducing the number of OPVs to be acquired is not an option for the PN.

"Ang gusto nila (Navy) anim talaga dahil talagang (yun) kailangan natin, so ang ginawa nila ay nakikipag-usap sila ngayon sa mga ibang proponent (na) kayang tugunan without any increase in price or reducing the number of ships (What they really want is six because that is the number they need, so they are now talking with other proponents capable of giving that number without increasing the price or reducing the number of ships)," the DND chief earlier said.

Lorenzana also said that shipbuilders from France, Sweden, South Korea's Hyundai Heavy Industries, Japan, and India have expressed interest in the PN's OPV project.

Initially, Australian shipbuilder Austal was believed to be the frontrunner in the OPV project.

Lorenzana, in earlier statement, said tapping Austal for the project will be greatly advantageous to the country as it will provide jobs to Filipinos as the company has an existing shipyard in Balamban, Cebu which it had acquired from Aboitiz.

This is aside from the transfer of technology which will also be beneficial to the Philippines in the long run, he added. The OPV project is expected to replace the World War II surface assets decommissioned by the Navy.

The DBM already released the funds for the project last year.

As this developed, AFP chief Gen. Andres Centino, who attended this year's ADAS' opening ceremonies, called the exhibition an opportunity for the military's project evaluation teams to assess and evaluate suitable requirements for the military’s defense and security platforms, systems, and equipment.

Some 146 local and foreign companies are participating in this year's event. As the premier platform for manufacturers and distributors, ADAS seeks to showcase capabilities or solutions that address the requirements of defense and security agencies.

National disaster reduction agencies have similarly benefitted from the event where they are able to avail of the latest updates on new techniques and technologies in disaster management. Following its successful launch in 2014, ADAS reaffirmed its position as the Philippines’ Flagship Defense and Security event as it continues to attract a significant number of international exhibitors from around the world to Manila.

“By bringing the latest technologies from around the world to Manila, the exhibition has opened wider avenues for the professional training, education, and enhancement of personnel competencies and skills,” Centino said. (PNA)