Philippine Navy Chief Vice Admiral Robert Empedrad expressed belief that no country can ever bully the Philippines again once they acquire submarines as part of their modernization program.
In an interview, Empedrad said as a Maritime nation the country needs submarines to help protect our territorial waters and EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone) from other countries and having submarines can do that.
“Basta sa akin (For me) I always say that as a maritime nation we need submarines. If we have submarines no country will bully us again,” Empedrad said.
” I think its high time that we have (the) capability para hindi na makuha ng kahit na anong bansa kung ano ang atin (so no other country can get what is ours). We have to protect them, it’s the Navy that can do that,” he added.
Empedrad, at the same time, said that they are leaving it to higher officials such President Rodrigo Roa Duterte and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana to decide on how the country can acquire submarines.
“The authority is with the president and the SND (Secretary of National Defense).” he said.
Empedrad said aside from Russia, other countries such as Germany and South Korea earlier expressed interest or even propose for their submarine acquisition after they came out with the technical specifications on what type of submarines they need to buy considering the maritime environment of the country.
“5o we were able to come up with a technical specification and some countries even propose for our submarine acquisition. There is one company from Germany, one company from Korea and this time from Russia which is heavily supported by the chief of the Navy of the Russian…” he said.
Empedrad also expressed belief that the best way to fast-track the acquisition of submarines is through Government to Government (procurement) to rid the complications of procurement. But such a decision will be up to President Duterte.
He added that now the country is moving forward in its plan to buy submarines, they will increase the training of Navy officers and personnel for them to effectively operate such a sophisticated and complex system.
“We need to increase our training kasi ibang klase ang capability na ito. We have to train our personnel. It’s not just acquiring capabilities and equipment kailangan natin ng magagaling na mga tao na magma-man dito sa mga (we need good men to man these) submarines. It’s a very complex equipment,” he said.
Empedrad said if the country is moving forward in buying Kilo-class submarines from Russia, he has already spoken with the chief of Vietnamese Navy to also help them in the training of their personnel.
Vietnam, he said, currently has in their inventory six Kilo-class submarines.
“Eto kasing (Our) procurement ng (of) submarines taking into consideration the ASEAN. I think Vietnam has six Kilo-class submarines in its inventory. During our ASEAN meeting, I requested the chief of the Vietnamese Navy to help in case, if they can help us in the training of our personnel. Kasi ang mahalaga talaga eh yung (The most important thing is the) personnel, capable personnel to man the submarines,” he said.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana earlier revealed that Russia is keen on selling the Philippines its Kilo-class diesel-electric submarines, which has a surface displacement of 2,350 tons, a length of 73.8 meters, and capable of a speed of 17 to 20 knots.
The Kilo-class submarines can be armed with a variety of torpedoes, missiles, and naval mines and have a cruising range of around 6,000 to 7,500 nautical miles.
In the ASEAN region, Vietnam is known to operate six improved Kilo-class submarines in its fleet.
Lorenzana said Russia is more than willing to provide the country “soft loans” to acquire the specialized underwater craft is the Philippines has no funds to buy its first-ever submarine.
Lorenzana said President Duterte wanted to buy two submarines from Russia and is also looking at South Korea as another source.