Lorenzana: South Korea, Australia ships to boost maritime patrols
MANILA, Philippines—The Department of National Defense appears bent on acquiring ships from South Korea and Australia to boost the country’s maritime patrols in the West Philippine Sea.
“We are planning to procure two corvettes from South Korea and also six offshore patrol vessels from Australia,” Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said at a budget hearing at the House of Representatives on Wednesday (Sept 1).
He said the shipbuilders—Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) and Austal—were willing to provide loans. But he did not say the acquisition status of the projects, which have been delayed for years.
“This is a multi-year program and they are willing to loan us money. Both companies are willing to loan us and we can amortize the cost of these assets over a period of maybe 10 years.
“That would be ideal if we can start it so we can have more ships to patrol the West Philippine Sea,” Lorenzana said.
Under President Rodrigo Duterte, the Philippines acquired two new multi-role frigates from South Korea’s HHI. But Lorenzana said these were not yet fully equipped yet.
“These frigates are not yet completely equipped. There are no missiles or arms while they patrol the area. They cannot actively challenge other ships because they are not equipped,” he said.
The Navy is also using hand-me-down ships from the United States to patrol the West Philippine Sea, but Lorenzana said these were inadequate, given the vastness of the area.
Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate said in a statement that the ships recently acquired by the government cannot effectively protect Filipino fishermen in the West Philippine Sea because it takes years to refurbish and arm them.
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