The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Modernization Program is getting another P35 billion in the proposed P5.024-trillion 2022 national budget, Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel, chairperson of the House strategic intelligence committee, said on Sunday.
“The sum is P8 billion more than the program’s P27-billion allocation this year, and we expect the bulk of the fresh funding to be spent on new naval assets for heightened national security missions, considering our lingering territorial dispute with China in the West Philippine Sea,” Pimentel said.
“We are counting on Camp Aguinaldo to sign the contracts for the Philippine Navy’s acquisition of six 83-meter offshore patrols vessels (OPVs) from Australia before the end of President Rodrigo Duterte’s term,” Pimentel said.
Department of National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenza previously said that the Australian global shipbuilder and defense contractor Austal Ltd. is at the forefront of the Navy’s procurement program for the OPVs at an aggregate cost of P22 billion.
“We expect the highly agile OPVs to serve as the Navy’s remote workhorses,” Pimentel said.
As designed, each OPV will have an aviation deck capable of launching helicopter and drone missions.
They will also be capable of rapidly deploying and recovering high-speed rigid-hulled inflatable boats armed with large-caliber machine guns.
The OPVs will have a top speed of 41 kilometers per hour (kph) and a maximum cruising range of over 6,000 kilometers at 22 kph.
“We want Austal to build the OPVs in its shipyard in Balamban, Cebu because it will mean more jobs for Filipinos,” Pimentel said.
Austal Philippines Pty. Ltd.’s shipyard at the West Cebu Industrial Park currently employs over 300 Filipinos.
Pimentel said Austal’s local boatyard can also facilitate the periodic upkeep of the OPVs.
Under the Duterte administration, the Navy has so far acquired two guided-missile frigates at a combined cost of $337 million (P15.8 billion) from South Korea.
The 108-meter frigates BRP Jose Rizal and BRP Antonio Luna are now the Navy’s largest and most modern warships.
Earlier this year, the Navy also ordered eight 33-meter Shaldag-class fast attack craft worth $127.9 million (P6.16 billion) from Israel Shipyards Ltd., plus $79.4 million (P3.82 billion) worth of remote-controlled weapon stations and missiles from Israel’s Rafael Advanced Systems Ltd.
The first of the missile-armed fast attack craft is due for delivery in the first quarter of 2022.
“After the eight fast attack craft from Israel and the six OPVs from Australia, we expect the Navy to acquire two heavily armed corvettes worth P30 billion,” Pimentel said.