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PH Navy chief on frigate deal: Nothing unethical with supplier complaint

/ 08:41 PM October 22, 2018
Robert Empedrad

Vice Admiral Robert Empedrad. INQUIRER PHOTO/LYN RILLON

Philippine Navy chief Vice Adm. Robert Empedrad said he sees nothing unethical in the move of President Rodrigo Duterte to receive and act on a complaint by South Korean supplier Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) over the multi-billion peso frigate deal.

“There is none. It’s just normal..parang gusto mong mag complain, mag complain ka doon. Pero na-address naman eh (You want to complain, so you complain, but it has been addressed),” he told reporters Monday when asked if the complaint of the South Korean firm raised ethical issues.

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Last week, Duterte admitted that he personally acted on the complaint of the South Korean supplier chosen to build the two warships, saying he referred it to his top aide Bong Go.

This was the first admission of the President of his role on the issue.

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The P18-billion frigate deal turned controversial after then Navy chief Vice Adm. Ronald Joseph Mercado was sacked from his post in December last year because of his supposed insubordination and for causing the delay of the procurement process.

READ: Navy chief relieved over P16-B frigate contract

The former Navy chief was pushing for a specific brand of combat management systems (CMS), the Thales Tacticos, which initially passed the Navy’s technical specifications for the frigates.

The chosen supplier for CMS for the frigate was Hanwha Systems, which was not the original preference of the Navy.

READ: Navy chief still prefers Thales Tacticos for frigate deal

Go allegedly intervened in the selection of the CMS for the two frigates by forwarding a white paper from the HHI to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.

But Malacanang and Lorenzana refused to admit that there were irregularities in the frigate acquisition.

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Empedrad, who previously worked with the technical working group for the frigates, denied that he knew the content of the complaint of HHI.

“Hindi ko kasi alam yung content. Pero wala naman problema dun. (I have no knowledge of the content, but there is no problem there) We were able to act on it already. Darating na siya sa March 2020 (It will be delivered in March 2020). It’s all systems go and we should be very happy for our country,” he said.

Empedrad said the project is already moving forward. The keel laying for the first of the two frigates was held last week in South Korea.

“To stop the project, we are being unfair to our kababayan. I would assure aboveboard wala kaming kinita (we didn’t earn from it). We assure our frigate will be delivered on time,” he said. /ee

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