Lorenzana, Mercado support call to pay extra for preferred frigate system
MANILA, Philippines – Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and ousted Philippine Navy chief Vice Admiral Ronald Mercado on Monday, February 19, both expressed support for the proposal to pay extra to acquire the best Combat Management System (CMS) for Philippine warships.
It's one thing the two officials in the middle of the frigates controversy agreed on after they exchanged biting statements during a Senate hearing.
"Maganda ang sinabi ni Senator Ralph Recto. 'Bakit hindi na lang natin bilhin 'yan kung 'yan ang gusto 'nyo?' I do not have any objection kung bibilhin 'yan (Senator Ralph Recto had a good proposal. 'Why don't you buy that if that's what you want?' I do not have any objection if we buy that)," Lorenzana told reporters after the hearing.
Mercado said he hopes Congress would consider the bigger budget. It would cost the country an additional $14 million (P700 million) to install the CMS of Tacticos Thales in two warships of the Philippine Navy, Lorenzana revealed earlier in the hearing.
"It's something that can be pursued. He (Recto) was thinking of a win-win solution for everybody. That's the beauty of what's happening now," said Mercado.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana supports Senator Ralph Recto's call to pay extra to install the CMS of Tacticos Thales into the two warships of the PH Navy. Ousted Navy chief VAdm Ronald Mercado supported this too @rapplerdotcom pic.twitter.com/ZVYXzCTkaq— Carmela Fonbuena (@carmelafonbuena) February 19, 2018
Resource speakers at the Senate hearing were unanimous in declaring the superiority of the CMS of Tacticos Thales. But winning bidder Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) had decided to install the CMS of Hanwha Systems.
New Philippine Navy chief Rear Admiral Robert Empedrad himself told the senators he also preferred Tacticos Thales. But he echoed the position of the Department of National Defense (DND) that the contract gives HHI the "sole right" to choose the supplier. (READ: Navy chief still wants proven technology over Korean system for warships)
Lorenzana said there's no way HHI will install the CMS from Tacticos Thales if the Philippines won't pay for the extra cost.
Mercado explained at the start of the hearing that it was the South Korean firm that offered the CMS of Tacticos Thales to the Philippine Navy. He denied that he was the one who pushed for the Dutch company.
He also initially argued that the price hike was something HHI should be willing to absorb.
Mercado was ousted as Navy chief in December 2017 for alleged insubordination over the frigates deal. He fought for the position of the Navy's Technical Working Group that Hanwha Systems, the CMS supplier chosen by HHI, did not meet the technical specifications of the Navy.
Lorenzana said Mercado's insistence on the other CMS supplier – Tacticos Thales – delayed the project. Mercado denied this. – Rappler.com