At the end of the day….
THAT DOES IT - Korina Sanchez (The Freeman) - February 21, 2018 - 12:00am

The Senate hearing on the Philippine Navy's acquisition of two frigates from South Korea began last Monday. President Duterte's Cabinet members came in force, most were not even invited as resource persons or to shed light on the issues. They were there to show support to Special Assistant to the President Bong Go. Like members of a fraternity preparing for a rumble, I guess. Just my take on it.

Go naturally denied any hand, any meddling in the project, especially the preference of the company providing the Combat Management System (CMS) to be installed into the two warships. The CMS is the ship's brain, handling the entire combat systems such as missile and gunnery missions, to name a few. The controversy began with the so-called existence of a "white paper" citing the benefits of using Korean-made technology from Hanwha Systems, instead of the preferred CMS by the Navy, Thales Tacticos. The Philippine Navy wanted Thales Tacticos, which is used by more than 20 navies. This is likewise the recommendation of the Technical Working Group, of which Rear Adm. Robert Empedrad was a member. He replaced Vice Adm. Ronald Mercado, whom DND Sec. Lorenzana sacked for insubordination. Mercado preferred Thales Tacticos as well.

While administration officials washed their hands, no one could deny the existence of the "white paper". So where did that come from? Who handed it to the office of Bong Go, if not to Bong Go himself? The letter was obviously pushing for Hanwha Systems. Former Usec. Lao of the Presidential Management Staff even called for a meeting to discuss the said paper. According to Rear Adm. Empedrad, he still wanted Thales Tacticos to install the CMS, but since the contract states that Hyundai Heavy Industries -the company building the two warships- will be installing the CMS, he could not do anything about it. This is why Vice Adm. Mercado was sacked. Sec. Lorenzana stated that Mercado's actions, particularly the CMS issue, delayed the project.

Now, DND Sec. Lorenzana sees no problem if Thales Tacticos is the preferred CMS, if the government is willing to shell out more to the tune of around $14 million dollars for both ships. Senator Ralph Recto was right in asking why the Navy would buy a more inferior product as opposed to a better, proven one. Who benefits from the better system? Whose lives depend on a good CMS should the need arise? If the TWG wanted Thales Tacticos, why would someone, I assume outside the Philippine Navy, push for Hanwha Sytems? At the end of the day, everyone involved in the frigate deal wanted Thales Tacticos. Vice Adm. Mercado was fired for wanting the very same thing. SAP Bong Go seemed vindicated, but at the end of the hearing, the origin of that "white paper" still hasn't been ascertained.

Funny how things work out.


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