VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Lorenzana’s claim on purchase of two new frigates under Duterte administration needs context

Needs context

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.)

Source: RTVMalacanang, Talk to the People, Feb. 21, 2022, watch from 1:22:51 to 1:23:11 (transcript)

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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RTVMalacanang, Talk to the People, Feb. 21, 2022, watch from 1:22:51 to 1:23:11 (transcript)

Initiation of frigates procurement

Start of procurement process

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

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.)