It's final: PH Navy chief says Korean system to be installed in warships
MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Navy decided to use a Korean combat management system (CMS), and not a more tested Dutch system, for warships which are expected to be delivered by 2020.
During his confirmation hearing, Vice Admiral Robert Empedrad said it is already a done deal because the contract has been signed and Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI), the contactor, already signed deals with its subcontractors, including Korean CMS supplier Hanwha Systems.
"It's a done deal. [HHI] already signed the contract with all subcontractors, [for equipment] like missiles, torpedoes, and other important subsystems," Empedrad told the Commission on Appointments (CA) national defense committee on Wednesday, March 14.
The CMS, likened to a ship's brain, has been the subject of controversy following a Department of National Defense (DND) frigates deal. The Navy originally wanted Tacticos Thales to be installed but in the end, the DND chose Hanwha.
There was controversial fine print in the agreement stating that HHI has the final say on the subsystems to be installed in the warships. HHI also earlier told the government that it should pay more if it wants Tacticos.
Asked if there is no way for the Navy to reverse the decision, Empedrad said: "The Navy as end user has no control of the issue because it's the DND who signed the contract with the president of HHI.... The Navy will just advise the department on how to implement the project smoothly."
'No pressure, influence'
Empedrad, who initially pushed for Tacticos, eventually agreed to Hanwha.
He said his change of heart was due to the signed contract. He also denied being pressured or influenced, even as the office of Special Assistant to the President Bong Go called for a meeting, upon a complaint of a Korean, to discuss the contract on January 20, at a time when the contract was at an impasse over the CMS supplier. (DOCUMENTS: How Bong Go is linked thrice to frigates deal)
Empedrad said he and other members of the Navy "just presented the advantages of Thales and Hanwha" to then Undersecretary Lloyd James Lao.
Now, he said Tacticos and Hanwha do not have significant differences, as both suppliers meet the Navy's technical requirements.
"As far as functionalities of CMS is concerned, there is nothing that Tacticos Thales can do that Hanwha can't do. So based on technical specification, the two CMS match the requirements of the Philippine Navy," he said.
"So if you're going to pay P700 million just to get Thales, I would rather buy a close-in weapon system to be placed on that ship that will protect the ship from incoming missiles," he added. (READ: Lorenzana, Mercado support call to pay extra for preferred frigate system)
Empedrad also assured lawmakers that all subsystems of the warships would be of high quality and would be safe for the military.
"I assure you all subsystems put in place [are] the best requirements that we want for the Navy," he said.
HHI was banned in its own country because of a bribery conviction that sent officials to jail.
HHI was prohibited from participating in any public bidding for government projects in South Korea for a period of two years or until November 2019, according to news reports there. (READ: Korean firm still PH warship supplier despite bad record – Lorenzana) – Rappler.com