MANILA — President Rodrigo R. Duterte urged his top aide, Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go, to demand an “open and transparent” Senate hearing into the Philippine Navy’s PHP18-billion Frigate Acquisition Project (FAP).
Duterte made the remark during the 7th Manila Times Business Forum in Marco Polo Hotel, Davao City Friday night, calling on his aide not to agree to the planned executive session in the Senate.
“Sabi ko,‘yan ang ‘wag mong gawin, (I said, don’t do that) Bong. Demand an open and transparent public hearing. And demand how this came about, the original,” Duterte said.
This way, the President said, details on the two suppliers for the combat management system (CMS) of the warships would be open to the public.
“Para makita and that it may be to their sorrow, lalabas talaga ‘yan diyan. Kung bakit nagku-compete silang dalawa(So they would see. It will surface why those two suppliers are competing),” he added.
Go earlier denied allegations that he dipped his hands into the selection process of the CMS supplier, saying he would step down if proven that he had indeed interfered.
Go reiterated that the frigate project was already a done deal during the time of former President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III in 2016.
The acquisition of the frigates was entered into as early as June 2013 but the procurement was approved by then Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin only on June 24, 2016.
On March 17, 2016, the submission and opening of the bids was done while on June 9, 2016, the winning bidder, Hyundai Heavy Industries of South Korea, was appointed with a bid prize of PHP15.74 million for two frigates.
Duterte, meanwhile, said that Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and relieved Vice Admiral Ronald Mercado argued over which company should supply the CMS.
“Nag-away si Mercado pati si Lorenzana. Gusto ni Mercado ‘yung Hyundai, ‘yung original na Hyundai na kanyang, gusto ni Mercado, palitan ng iba. Ayaw ni Lorenzana kasi matagal na (Mercado and Lorenzano argued. Mercado wanted to change the supplier from the original Hyundai. Lorenzana didn’t want to because it was decided long ago),” Duterte said.