DND, Korean shipbuilder sign MOU ahead of corvette deal
MANILA, Philippines — The Department of National Defense (DND) and Korean shipbuilder Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) have signed a memorandum of understanding ahead of the acquisition of two brand new corvettes for the Philippine Navy.
If the actual contract goes through, the government-to-government deal for the two corvettes worth P28 billion would be an addition to the two frigates currently being built by HHI for the Philippine Navy.
The MOU signing between Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and HHI President Ka Sam-Hyun coincided with the ship launch of the Navy’s second missile-capable frigate, the BRP Antonio Luna (FF-151), at HHI shipyard in Ulsan, South Korea on Friday, Nov. 8.
“The MOU is basically a basic understanding between Hyundai Heavy Industries and DND on the construction of two brand new corvettes worth P28 billion,” Navy chief Vice Adm. Robert Empedrad told reporters Monday evening on the sidelines of the 69th anniversary of the Philippine Marine Corps.
“It’s an understanding of how to implement the project once the budget is available,” he added.
He described the future corvettes as “more powerful” than the upcoming frigates because of its close-in weapons systems and defense missiles.
The Navy chief also pointed out that the corvettes would be worth P14 billion each, as compared to the two frigates worth P8 billion each.
The Philippine government signed a deal with HHI for the construction of two frigates worth P16 billion in 2016. The first ship is expected to arrive in April/May, while the second is scheduled to arrive in September/October of 2020.
Empedrad said they are looking to sign the contract for the corvettes before the year ends, but it will still depend on the Department of Budget and Management.
Another Pohang-class corvette
The Philippine Navy is also looking forward to getting another Pohang-class corvette from South Korea.
It will be a sistership of BRP Conrado Yap (PS-39), which was donated by South Korea and was added to the Navy’s fleet sometime in August.
The Republic of Korea Navy will retire one of its Pohang-class ships before the year ends, and Empedrad hopes it would go to the Philippine Navy.
“If we can communicate with them na pwede ibigay sa atin (about the possibility of giving it to us) through hot transfer bago ilagay sa (before they place it to the) shipyard, baka pwede na i-deliver sa atin (maybe it could be delivered to us)… South Korea government said the Philippines is a priority because of our close relations. Lagi silang nagpapasalamat nung nagpadala tayo ng contingent (They have always been grateful that we sent a contingent) during Korean war,” he said.
Empedrad said there is a request for at least two more Pohang-class vessels because they usually operate at least three units of the same type.
He mentioned the possibility of retiring BRP Mariano Alvarez (PS-38), a former Cyclone-class ship of the US Navy. It is the only ship of this type in the Philippine Navy.
“We need at least three [ships] because when we buy spare parts, we buy it in bulk. May sad lesson tayo dyan (We have a sad lesson there). ‘Yung ship na binigay ng US, grabe ang gastos natin dyan (The ship donated by US, it cost us a lot),” he said.
“Kung hindi madagdagan (if there won’t be additional ships), I’m contemplating on retiring it kasi magastos (it would be costly),” he added.
More ships for the Navy
The Philippine Navy is also looking to acquire six offshore patrol vessels and eight fast attack interdiction craft with missiles through government-to-government deals, which would hopefully be signed before the year ends.
The Philippines, an archipelagic state with one of the world’s longest coastlines and most number of islands, faces security challenges, ranging from the South China Sea dispute to the intrusions of foreign ships.
If Empedrad had his way, he would like the eight fast attack interdiction craft missile from Israel worth P10 billion to be signed first among all the upcoming contracts “because it is a priority project of the President.”
These Shaldag boats are seen to replace the Navy’s PKM (patrol killer medium), he said.
“Mukhang makakakuha tayo ng (It appears we will get a) budget of P10 billion. We are pushing it to be signed this year. Israel said that if we sign the contract by next year, hindi mai-dedeliver (it won’t be delivered) within the term of the President. If we sign this year, it will all be delivered by March 2022, which is very good for the term of the President,” he said.
Edited by JE
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