By Floro L. Mercene
Vice Admiral Mercado was also the first Technical Working Group head of the Frigate Acquisition Project (FAP) before then Commodore Empedrad took over when Mercado became Philippine Navy Flag Officer in Command (FOIC) in 2016.
Questions are now being asked why these two important officers were relieved of their posts, considering their involvement in the project.
“Why was RAdm Empedrad involved in the Frigate Project until before he was made FOIC, despite being already the AFP J9 which has nothing to do with the FAP?” MaxDefense asked.
Also why this change of command just before the Christmas holiday, when the Senate and Congress go on recess, while the media’s attention is also distracted.
When the Department of National Defense (DND) frigate project steering committee declared the critical design review phase complete as of October, 2017, they decided to go ahead with the Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) Alternate Configuration instead of the Original Baseline Configuration that the Philippines Navy favored.
However, it appears that HHI violated the Procurement Law when it insisted on replacing all the equipment, despite the prohibition on deviation from their original bid.
The law says: “Alternative bids shall be rejected an alternative bid is an offer made by a bidder (HHI) in addition or as a substitute to its original bid, which may be included as part of its original bid or submitted separately for purposes of bidding.”
“A bid with options is considered an alternative bid regardless of whether the bid proposal is contained in a single envelope or submitted in two or more separate bid envelopes.”
News reports said Mercado was standing up against Department of National Defense (DND) officials, insisting on a preferred contractor for the procurement of weapons.
Because of this, Mercado “lost the trust and confidence of Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.” There was clearly a conflict between the Navy and the DND procurement program.
Prior to Vice Admiral Mercado’s relief, there were serious discussions on how to determine what equipment and major systems are to be installed in two of the country’s first-ever missile-capable frigates.
Mercado told the Philippine News Agency that there were ongoing discussions on the equipment and major systems to be installed, after which construction would start.