MANILA, Philippines - Two Italian warships are set to strengthen the Philippines' maritime defense capabilities, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said Thursday.
Gazmin said the Philippine Navy is buying the P11.7-billion Maestrale-class frigates , which have anti-submarine and anti-aircraft weaponry.
The move is part of the Armed Forces' modernization program, the defense chief said at a forum in Camp Aguinaldo.
"These frigates are warships. These have anti-air, sub-surface, they have anti-submarine (capabilities). What we are getting are really meant for war," Gazmin said.
The frigates, which were commissioned in the 1980s, are being used by the Italian Navy.
He said the Navy is waiting for the approval of contract that is expected to be signed in January 2013.
The ships will then be delivered by November after they are refurbished.
"These are operational. They are being used by the Italian Navy. They will be refurbished and overhauled," Gazmin said.
The Philippine Navy bought a Hamilton-class cutter from the US Coast Guard for about P400 million last year. A similar vessel is expected to be delivered to the Navy within the next few month.
"These will be a big help because they will be giving us a very good defense posture," Garzmin said. "These will help in guarding (our territory), against terrorism, enforcement of maritime laws."
Fernando Manalo, defense undersecretary for finance, munitions, installations and materiel, said a separate P3.2-billion contract for the purchase of 10 attack helicopters from Eurocopter could be signed this month.
The helicopters will be delivered this year if the contract gets the green light.
This is the latest episode in a growing arms race with countries with coast on the South China Sea racing to build up their military because of China's aggression. Just a few days ago a Chinese frigate ran aground on a shoal claim by China and the Philippines, and was removed a couple days later. The Philippines do not want to see that happen again, I think that is why they have purchased these 2 frigates. As to the 10 attack helicopter mentioned at the end, I would guess those are going to be Eurocopter Tigers, or the EC 635.
Either way this a major development, as the Hamilton-class cutters are greatly outclassed by these
frigates. As these frigate bring an anti-air, and anti-ship capability to the table which the Hamiltons don't have.
Photo Credit: U.S. Navy