At least six foreign countries are offering frigates to the Philippines after the Department of National Defense (DND) expressed interest in purchasing at least two more warships to boost territorial defense amid the dispute at West Philippine Sea. Fernando Manalo, Defense Undersecretary for finance, munitions, installations and materiel, disclosed that aside from Italy, countries that are offering their frigates are South Korea, Spain, United States, Israel, Croatia, and Australia.
Manalo said that earlier, the Philippines is only eyeing the refurbished Maestrale-class frigates from the Italian navy worth over P11 billion, but more countries have made their offers in the latter part of 2012. “Other countries are now just being convinced that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is serious in its efforts to make itself stronger and more credible,” Manalo said.
Manalo further disclosed that some of the countries were offering brand new frigates. He added that the DND is still in the process of conducting studies to determine which type of frigate will be best for the country. He said the department hopes to come up with a decision by the end of January. “Within this month something must happen,” Manalo said. “Due diligence is being exercised here because we are talking of billions of pesos,” he added.
Meanwhile, the AFP’s Western Command has not monitored any Chinese vessels on disputed territories at West Philippine Sea. Air reconnaissance conducted Thursday showed no signs of Chinese warships, said Lieutenant General Juancho Sabban, Western Command commander. “As per information from my commanders, we conducted aerial recon (Thursday), we didn’t see any of the new vessels that China said they will deploy to West Philippine Sea, and I understand also that from reports (that) China already retracted its statement that they will board and search all vessels passing through West Philippine Sea. I think this is a good development,” Sabban said.