Defense undersecretary for finance, munitions, installations and materiel Fernando Manalo said that five countries – South Korea, US, Israel, Croatia and Australia – had made their own offers towards the end of last year.
The Defense Department had initially considered acquiring Maestrale class frigates, which are currently used by the Italian Navy, for P11.7 billion.
Manalo said the five countries decided to participate in the acquisition process because they believed that the Philippine government is “really serious” in modernizing its armed forces.
“They can be treated as competitors,” said Manalo, adding that some of the frigates offered by the five countries are brand new.
Based on an initial study, Manalo said the Italian frigates can provide “the capability that we need in the West Philippine Sea, the minimum credible deterrence that we need the can be provided by the two Maestrales.”
According to naval defense industry website, naval-technology.com, the Maestrale class are 3,200 ton frigates first used by the Italian Navy, the Marina Militare, in 1982. Though primarily an anti-submarine platform, it also possess anti-aircraft warfare (AAW) and anti-surface warfare (ASuW) capabilities. Italy is currently facing-out the Maestrale for a newer class firgate.
As configured for the Italian Navy, the Maestrale has a 127 mm auto-cannon capable of firing 40 rounds per minute with a range of 30 kms. It also has two twin-40 mm DARDO close-in weapon systems as well as anti-aircraft and anti-ship missiles, and torpedoes tubes.
The frigate has a 47 m wide flight deck aft, as well as a hanger that can house two helicopters.
But given the new offers, the undersecretary said that the National Defense Department is developing a matrix that will compare the Maestrales with the frigates that are being offered by the other countries.
“The process is just to validate our initial market research we conducted about Maestrale being the best deal,” Manalo explained. “For example, if it comes out in our validation that there are reasons to... look into this offer [from the other five countries], we have to look into this offer, not necessarily disregarding [the Italian offer].”
“Its a process of doing due diligence so that we’ll not commit a mistake. This does not involve only one million or a hundred million, but billions of pesos. We cannot afford to make a mistake,” Manalo said.
The West Philippine Sea, or the South China Sea, contains both the Spratly Islands and the Panatag Shoal, the ownership of which the Philippines is disputing, mainly, with China.