The claim of Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana that the acquisition of two new frigates for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) started under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte lacks context.
During Duterte’s public address on Feb. 21, Lorenzana reported updates on the purchase of new military equipment such as naval ships:
“Ito naman ‘yung ating naumpisahan, nagsimula noong kayo ay Presidente, Mr. President, at saka nakumpleto noong kayo ay ano — noong nakaraan lang … dalawang frigates na in-order natin noong 2017 at nai-deliver noong nakaraang taon.”
(This one we started under your presidency, Mr. President, and completed when you were … just recently … two frigates we ordered in 2017 and delivered last year.)
The defense chief claimed that the Duterte administration bought more equipment for the military than the five previous administrations.
While delivery of the two new frigates for the Philippine Navy was during the Duterte administration, government announcements and media reports show that the procurement process began in 2013, during the administration of the late President Benigno Aquino III.
Bidding for the frigates began in October 2013 with an P18-billion budget under the Navy’s Frigate Acquisition Project (FAP). This was part of the military’s extended 15-year modernization program to boost the country’s territorial defense capability.
Ernesto Boac, former head of the Department of National Defense’s (DND) Bids and Awards Committee, revealed in a February 2018 Senate hearing that the bidding process was finalized in the second week of June 2016 under the leadership of Aquino’s Defense secretary Voltaire Gazmin.
But Gazmin, who was present in the same hearing, explained that he refrained from “issuing awards or executing contracts” to allow the then-incoming Duterte administration to decide on the contract.
The Senate initiated the hearing due to the alleged intervention of Duterte’s former aide-turned-senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go in the selection of the provider of the combat management system (CMS) for the frigates. The CMS is the computer and software that integrate all of a ship’s weapons, data, sensors, and other equipment into a single system.
However, then-Malacañang spokesperson Harry Roque insisted Go did not intervene in the CMS selection. He also argued that the Duterte administration “merely performed a ministerial function in giving the Notice of Award to the winning bidder” to build the frigates. (See VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Roque’s claim that ‘only’ Duterte acquired new frigates for AFP lacks context)
In October 2016, Lorenzana awarded the contract to build two 2,600-tonnes missile-capable frigates to the South Korean warship manufacturer Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI). The company delivered the first frigate, named Barko ng Republika ng Pilipinas (BRP) Jose Rizal, in May 2020, and the second, named BRP Antonio Luna, in February 2021.
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Initiation of frigates procurement
- Department of National Defense, Philippine Navy’s first ever state-of-the-art frigate launched in South Korea, May 24, 2019
- Inquirer.net, A timeline: Philippine Navy rides waves of frigates deal, May 24, 2020
- Presidential Communications Operations Office, President Aquino attends 118th anniversary of the Philippine Navy, June 1, 2016
- Philippine News Agency, Navy frigate deal: What we need to know, Feb. 18, 2018
Start of procurement process
- Philstar.com, DND opens bidding for new P18-B warships, Oct. 3, 2013
- ABS-CBN News, DND starts bidding for two new frigates, Oct. 3, 2013
- Inquirer.net, DND opens bidding for 2 frigates, Oct. 2, 2013
Philippine Navy, Rough Deck Log, May 2019
Department of National Defense, Annual Report 2019, 2019
Official Gazette, Republic Act No. 10349
Presidential Communications Operations Office, President Duterte vows for continuous AFP modernization, July 2, 2019
Philippine Navy, Rough Deck Log, June 2019
Senate of the CA approves appointment of Medialdea and Lorenzana, Oct. 19, 2016
Department of National Defense, Defense_Chronicle_Volume_3_Issue_3, 2019
Hyundai Heavy Industries, Sitemap, Oct. 24, 2016
ABS-CBN News, WATCH: Senate investigates Navy frigate deal, Feb. 18, 2018
Go on frigates deal hearing
- Rappler.com, Bong Go intervenes in P15.5-B project to acquire PH warships, Jan. 16, 2018
- Inquirer.net, Inquirer issues statement on Bong Go’s allegation of fake news, Feb. 19. 2018
- GMA News Online, Letters show Bong Go role in Navy’s frigate purchase —Alejano, Jan. 18, 2018
Lockheed Martin, The Brains of a ship, Accessed June 18, 2021
Philippine Navy, Rough Deck Log, July 2020
Philippine Navy, Navy welcomes future BRP Antonio Luna as it reaches Philippine waters, Feb. 9, 2021
(Guided by the code of principles of the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, VERA Files tracks the false claims, flip-flops, misleading statements of public officials and figures, and debunks them with factual evidence. Find out more about this initiative and our methodology.)