Prioritize vessels for disaster response over submarines — Escudero
MANILA, Philippines — Senator Francis Escudero on Tuesday said that the government must set aside its plan to purchase submarines and instead augment the country’s inventory of boats for disaster response and relief.
Escudero made the remark after Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri on Monday said President Ferdiand Marcos Jr. was “warm to the idea” of the Philippines purchasing around P70 billion worth of submarines.
“The reality is we cannot realize our submarine dreams if what we have is a salbabida (lifebuoy) budget. Perhaps when our finances improve, then we can give the Navy the ships it deserves. As the saying goes, ‘A rising tide raises all ships,’” Escudero said in a statement.
The senator said he likewise believes Navy equipment is due for an upgrade.
“But insofar as the planned purchase of two diesel-electric attack submarines for a reported total price tag of P70 billion, I think this should be shelved at the moment,” he said.
Escudero proposed instead boosting investments for building multipurpose vessels that can be used as floating hospitals, barracks for rescue workers, cargo bays for rescue equipment, emergency power plants, and food pantries.
“These can be rapidly deployed to areas whose roads and power have been cut off. Our rescue personnel will have a place to stay in and will no longer need to compete with the local communities,” he said.
Escudero pointed out that local shipbuilders may be tapped to contribute to the Philippine economy and prevent an “outflow of dollars.”
In 2019, the Navy said it had started the preparations for procuring two submarines to be delivered in 2027.
Then-President Rodrigo Duterte had green-lighted the planned acquisition of submarines, corvettes, offshore patrol vessels, and fast attack interdiction crafts.
The plans, however, were pushed back, along with other projects of the Navy, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Countries like France, South Korea, Turkey, and India have previously shown interest in supplying the Navy with submarines, while Singapore also indirectly offered to hand down its used ones.