PH Navy chief prefers G2G deal in buying submarines
While President Rodrigo Duterte has the final decision, Navy chief Vice Admiral Robert Empedrad sees that the best way to procure the country’s first submarines is through a government-to-government (G2G) route.
“I think the best way is include G2G para mawala yung complication ng procurement but it depends on the President,” he told reporters on Wednesday.
Russia, one of the potential suppliers of the submarines, has offered a soft loan to the Philippine government to be paid over a period of time.
Empedrad said this is “very advantageous” because the government still has no budget for it, but clarified that a deal has not been made.
“Maybe other countries will give us a good deal. As I’ve said it’s not yet final,” he said.
The U.S. a long-time ally of the Philippines has strongly objected the latter’s consideration of acquiring submarines from its rival Russia, saying it will hurt the decades-long alliance and interoperability.
No more bullies
Empedrad said buying “important and sophisticated” equipment from a particular country will strengthen the relationship with them.
“It’s just not about the equipment, and the future maintenance and sustainment,” he said.
As a maritime nation, he sees the need to acquire submarines sooner as a strategic deterrence to other foreign navies.
“If we have submarines, no country will bully us again. I think it’s a high time that we have capability para hindi makuha ng kahit anong bansa kung ano ang atin. We have to protect them and it is the Navy that can do that,” Empedrad said.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, who is currently in Russia for a military exhibit and meetings with defense officials and companies, maintained that other suppliers for submarines are still being considered.
“Korea is a candidate too. But the Russian-made is better and more expensive,” he told reporters in a message on Thursday.
Asked if Russia is the top choice, he said: “Not really.”
“We are not a very rich country and we may opt for a more affordable platform. We’ll see, the jury is still out,” he said.
Training of personnel
The Navy has also started to send their personnel abroad to familiarize themselves with submarines.
“It’s not just acquiring capabilities and equipment. Kailangan natin ng magagaling na mga tao na mag-man dito sa submarines. These are very complex equipment,” Empedrad said.
Empedrad said he has asked his Vietnamese counterpart for help with submarine training.
“Vietnam has six Kilo-class submarines in its inventory so during our Asean meeting I requested him to help us in training of personnel,” he said.
Empedrad said that interoperability is indeed “a very important factor” in its acquisition of submarines and said it would be highly prioritized in the procurement.
“Pag bumili tayo then we will come up with technical specs. We will make sure that the interoperability with our frigates will be taken into consideration,” he said.
“Ang ipo-produce lang naman dun is the platform capability, pero interoperability, I don’t think it will be an issue. We can adjust our requirements for that,” he said. /muf
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