Delivery of the country’s first two missile-armed frigates, which are designed to be capable of engaging surface, subsurface and air threats, is still on track, acting Philippine Navy (PN) flag-officer-in-command Rear Admiral Robert Empedrad said late Wednesday.
“The frigate [project] has not been delayed. Tuloy-tuloy siya and delivery time is still the same (first quarter of 2020) and we are going to process that,” he added.
The Department of National Defense (DND) and Hyundai Heavy Industries signed a PHP18 billion contract for two frigates including its weapon systems and munition last October 24, 2016.
But he admitted that the frigate program still has a lot of challenges to hurdle before being completed.
Some of the issues include how to prepare and train PN personnel to man and operate these modern ships, where to dock them, and where to source the missiles and torpedoes which are the frigates’ main armaments aside from its main guns and secondary gunnery systems.
The acting PN chief said that determining where to acquire these weapons is a big challenge as torpedoes alone takes two years to manufacture.
“So we have to process that so that pagdating ng frigate ay may bala [na siya],” he added.
As this develops, Empedrad expressed his thanks to President Rodrigo Duterte for naming him as the acting Navy chief following the relief of Vice Admiral Ronald Joseph Mercado after DND Secretary DelfinLorenzana cited lost of trust and confidence on the integrity and leadership of the latter.
This was brought about by the alleged fixation of Mercado on one company to supply the combat management system (CMS) on the country’s frigate project.
The CMS is the system which handles the weapons, sensors and other equipment related to combat.
The bickering on what particular CMS manufacturer to utilize has delayed the frigate project by some four months, Lorenzana earlier said.
Empedrad said he will be doing his job as PN chief and that he will do his best to keep the ongoing projects of the Navy moving forward.
“I’m happy to be at the helm of the Navy, and I would ask all the members of the Navy, sailors and marines to, let’s work as a team so that we can move on with what we [en]vision for the Navy which is to be a strong navy and credible navy that our maritime nation will be proud of,” the acting PN chief said.