Wanted: Consultant for PH Navy's P18.9-B warships deal

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of National Defense (DND) set aside P25 million to allow the Philippine Navy to hire a consultancy firm that will assist in finalizing the technical specifications of the much-awaited two warships it is acquiring for P18.9 billion.

"The consultant will classify seaworthiness and design...They will provide technical expertise. I'm not saying we do not have it. Pero hindi naman kami nagmamayabang that we know everything," said Commodore Ronald Mercado of the DND Bids and Awards Committee-Technical Working Group (BAC-TWG).

The frigates the Navy is acquiring are not in its current inventory. As the maritime dispute with China continues to escalate, it's a much needed upgrade from the country's most capable warships – the refurbished cutters from US, BRP Ramon Alcaraz, and BRP Gregorio Del Pilar

"The frigates for bidding are brand new ones. Included in the package are capabilities like having primary and secondary guns, missile system, anti-submarine warfare weapon system, and electronic warfare system," explained Navy spokesman Lt Cmdr Gregory Fabic.

Like the US cutters, the warships should be able to accommodate a helicopter and rigid hull inflatable boats.

The consultancy contract will not be bidded out. Navy chief Vice Admiral Jose Luis Alano will be the approving authority. 

"We will have to look first at consultants in the region who have proven experience. I have some people already doing the research. We have to look for a proven expert. And when we've identified it, we have to do some market research," Mercado added.

The Navy-BAC on Monday, January 20, sought an issuance by the DND of a special authority to hire the consultants for P25 million. It was approved by Defense undersecretary for finance Fernando Manalo.

Second stage crucial

The two warships are funded by the P75-billion boost the Aquino administration allotted for the revised Armed Forces of the Philippines revised modernization program. It is one of two big-ticket projects. The other one is the P18-billion project for 12 fighter jets currently stalled in Malacañang.

Armed Forces chief of staff General Emmanuel Bautista recently said the Philippines needs at least 6 ships to patrol the country's waters. The other two warships may be acquired from the US, too. (READ: PH seeks more US navy ships amid China threat)

Four firms have qualified in the first of a two-stage bidding competitive bidding for the warships – Spanish firm Navantia Sepi (RTR Ventures) and South Korean firms STX Offshore & Shipbuilding, Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering Co Ltd, and Hyundai Heavy Industries Inc.

Three disqualified firms are appealing. The BAC is yet to resolve their motions – Garden Reach Shipbuilders & Engineers Ltd of India, STX France SA, and Thyssenkrupp Marine System.

The Navy is set to proceed with the workshops with the qualified bidders to prepare for the second stage of bidding. The Navy is currently using reservists for help in the bidding process.

Mercado said they need the consultants by February before the BAC can proceed to the more crucial second stage of the bidding process, when the technical aspects and the financial proposals will be discussed.

The consultants will help determine the ship design and the weapons system that the Navy can require of the bidders, considering the funding involved. – Rappler.com