Sacked Navy chief hopes frigate project to proceed amid controversies
Amid the controversies surrounding the frigate acquisition project, former Navy chief Vice Admiral Ronald Joseph Mercado, who was sacked over the deal, still hoped that the big-ticket modernization project would still proceed.
In a chance interview at Camp Aguinaldo, the ousted officer said the warship would be the first of its kind in their history and it would finally give the much desired ‘punch’ for the Navy to fulfill its role in protecting its territory.
“I like that frigate because everyone in the Navy wants that. It’s a combat ship. Anong mangyayari sa Navy natin kung walang punch diba (What will happen to our Navy if there is no punch, isn’t it?) You cannot have only a transport ship. We should have a punch. The frigate is the capital ship and this is the first in the history of the Navy that we will have a frigate, newly constructed, missile-capable (of engaging targets from) air, surface and undersea,” he said.
Mercado was relieved by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana last December for ‘insubordination’ after supposedly insisting on a particular brand of combat management system (CMS) for the warships to be built by Hyundai Heavy Industries. The contract signed for the warships in 2016 was worth P15.7-B.
“Ang daming sinasabi na ako ang namimilit ngayon (So many things are being said about me pressuring) but the thing is when I took over (as Navy chief) yun na yung position ng (that was already the position of the) Navy,” he said.
But Mercado said he hoped the project would still follow the provisions of the contract. Without mentioning any manufacturer, he continued to back the CMS that met the original requirements of the Navy. It was the Thales Tacticos that the project management team originally preferred.
The former Navy chief said he only wanted to go for a “proven” brand for the CMS. “Obviously go to systems that are proven.”
In fact, the refurbished warships from the US that were acquired by the Philippines used the technology of Thales, he said. “Many navies are using it, like Indonesia,” Mercado said.
Other countries using the same technology include Nato countries, Thailand, and Singapore, he said.
Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano has earlier called on the government to cancel the purchase for the two frigates. Malacanang was also accused of interference on the deal, but it has been already denied by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Mercado.
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