The Department of National Defense (DND) should advance by three years the acquisition of 16 new warships amid China’s repeated incursions in the West Philippine Sea, Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel said on Thursday.
“The biggest threat to our sovereign rights as a nation is clearly in our strategic waters, so we have to give top-priority to rebuilding our naval fleet,” Pimentel, chairperson of the House committee on strategic intelligence, said.
“Coupled with strong diplomacy, we need highly visible warships to demonstrate our readiness to protect and enforce our rights over our 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone,” Pimentel said.
Pimentel urged Camp Aguinaldo to fine-tune the military’s modernization program and give preference to funding the Philippine Navy’s plan to get hold of another four frigates and 12 corvettes.
“Instead of getting these 16 new combat ships in phases between now and 2028, the Navy should get them all by 2025,” Pimentel said.
The 16 warships lined up for procurement are on top of the two South Korean-built multi-role guided missile frigates – BRP Jose Rizal and BRP Antonio Luna – recently put into active service by the Navy.
“In the annual national budgets from 2022 to 2025, Congress should also provide the additional appropriations needed for the Navy’s expedited acquisition of the new warships,” Pimentel said.
The Navy is getting the money for new warships from the annual budget for the revised Armed Forces of the Philippines Modernization Program, which has an allocation of P27 billion this year.
The Navy also plans to buy 18 offshore patrol vessels, 40 fast-attack interdiction craft and 42 smaller multi-purpose attack craft.
Manila earlier this week filed a diplomatic protest against Beijing over the Chinese maritime militia’s swarming of Julian Felipe Reef with up to 220 vessels moored in line formation.