By Francis Wakefield
The possibility of the Philippine Navy (PN) acquiring offshore patrol vessels (OPV) from an Australian firm that builds ships in Cebu, will help create jobs for Filipino laborers there in the area, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana disclosed.
In an interview, Lorenzana said in case the government and the PN strike a deal with Austal which has a shipyard in Balamban, Cebu City, to build six offshore patrol vessels, the city’s economy will greatly benefit from it.
“First, they (Austal) make good ships. Second, the company is in Balamban Cebu and employs Filipino workers,” Lorenzana said.
When asked if the price of the vessel is cheaper compared to other countries that also build ships, Lorenzana said they have yet to make comparisons.
“Hindi ko alam [I don’t know]. We’ll have to see the price comparison. But as I said the great advantage of Austal is that it is in the Philippines bringing jobs and other economic benefits,” Lorenzana said.
Austal, which is a global ship builder and defense prime contractor with industry leading capabilities in the development of both defense and commercial vessel platforms, earlier offered to the Philippine Navy its Cape-class patrol boats which is about 80 meters long.
According to its website which can be read via https://philippines.austal.com/ships-2, defense vessels designed and built by the Austal Group include revolutionary, multi-mission surface warfare combatants, such as the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) for the United States Navy, military high speed support vessels for transport and humanitarian relief, such as the Expeditionary Fast Transport (EPF) program (formerly the Joint High Speed Vessel) for the United States Navy and the new High Speed Support Vessel (HSSV) for the Royal Navy of Oman.
The Austal Group also designs, constructs, integrates and maintains an extensive range of patrol boats for government law enforcement and border protection agencies globally; including the Cape Class Patrol Boat Program for Australian Border Force.
The Austal Group’s defense vessels are developed by highly qualified, experienced naval engineers and designers utilising the very latest in naval architecture systems and constructed in industry leading shipbuilding facilities in Mobile, Alabama and Henderson, Western Australia.
Captain Jonathan Zata, the Director of the Naval Public Affairs Service, said the PN OPV requirement is part of the 2nd Horizon of the AFP modernization program and is intended to be completed in 2022.
Currently, a TWG (Technical Working Group) composed of PN officers are working closely under the DND for details on the processing of the project.
Zata said the OPV TWG has taken notes on the different OPVs in the market but what they are finalizing are what the navy requires with no allusion to any builders.
“They are closely working with the DND. It’s the DND that will recommend on the best mode of procurement that will be to the best interest of the government,” Zata said.