The Department of National Defense (DND) on Thursday said it had signed a P1.3-billion ($32-million) contract for the acquisition of three Italian-made helicopters for the Philippine Navy, a move that, according to the defense chief, shows a “louder and clearer” intent to modernize the military.
Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin announced the modernization move as China sent its first patrol vessel to disputed waters in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), where Chinese patrols would board, search and expel foreign ships starting Jan. 1.
China’s southern Hainan province, from where China administers the West Philippine Sea, said in late November that maritime patrols would strictly enforce new border rules, but respect freedom of navigation in the sea.
Gazmin said the Philippines would purchase three multipurpose AW helicopters from AugustaWestland SPA of Italy “in a concrete step toward the fulfillment of our goal to modernize the Philippine Navy and the Armed Forces in general.”
He also announced the signing of a P300.780-million ($7.33 million) contract with Korea’s Kia Motors Corp. for the acquisition of 60 1.5-ton field ambulances and 12 5-ton trucks for the Philippine Army.
Gazmin said the purchases show the Philippines’ “louder and clearer” intent to modernize its military.
The Philippines is also getting a second warship, the 45-year-old Hamilton-class BRP Ramon Alcaraz, which is expected to arrive from the United States early next year after undergoing repairs and refurbishing.
Gazmin said the military entered into a negotiated contract agreement with AugustaWestland SPA for the three naval choppers costing a total of P1.3 billion.
He said he approved the contract on Dec. 20, more than two weeks after the DND bids and awards committee recommended the signing of the notice of award.
Gazmin said the agreement was allowed under the government procurement law.
On Nov. 28, the Naval Helicopter Acquisition Project Negotiating Committee declared that the Italian supplier was the “single calculated and responsive proponent after going through the process of a negotiated procurement,” Gazmin said.
“The Italian Ministerio Della Difesa conducted a review of AugustaWestland’s proposal for the procurement of AW 109 Power helicopter, including related logistics support, and found out that the price per helicopter ‘seems to have been progressively reduced,’ meaning they were sold cheaper,” he said.
Gazmin said he approved the contract for the ambulances and trucks with Kia Motors on Nov. 20.
Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Jessie Dellosa signed the contract for the military.
Gazmin said the deal with Kia Motors was made through a Memorandum of Understanding on Logistics and Defense Industry Cooperation between Korea and the Philippines.
“The purchase of these field ambulances will greatly help in saving the lives of our soldiers who are out there fighting for our nation and the Filipino people,” Gazmin said.
“In the same sense, we can use these to help in our disaster rescue and relief operations to aid our beleaguered countrymen and help save a lot of lives,” he added.—With a report from AP