Australian Ambassador to the Philippines Steven Robinson on Thursday said the Department of National Defense is negotiating with Austal, a world-renowned defense contractor and shipbuilder, for the procurement of six naval offshore patrol vessels (OPVs) worth AUS$600 million (P22 billion).
In an interview with CNN Philippines, Robinson said the negotiation for the purchase of the OPVs is strongly supported by the Australian government and is part of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ modernization plan.
“We are having an ongoing discussion with the Department of National Defense as part of their modernization program and we would like to contribute to that in a meaningful way,” the Australian diplomat stressed.
Reports showed that the purchase of the OPVs from Austal has been already approved as part of the AFP’s Horizon 2, or the second tier of the military’s modernization plan, subject to the availability of funds.
Under Horizon 2, the AFP is acquiring fast-attack interdictor craft missile (FAIC-M) ships, landing docks, air search radars, and other external defense equipment. The OPVs are expected to replace the World War II ships that were earlier retired by the PN.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana was reportedly considering the Australian shipbuilder, which has a shipyard in Balamban, Cebu, “at the forefront of the Navy’s OPV procurement program.”
During the interview, the envoy reaffirmed Australia’s strong support to the Philippines through their existing Memorandum of Understanding on defense cooperation and the Status of Forces Agreement (SoFA).
Robinson said Austal is also negotiating with Korean giant shipbuilder Hanjin for the operation of its Subic shipyard.
The diplomat said the Hanjin facility is a world-class facility which would be an “enormous boon” to any company that would be seeking to expand its business in the Philippines.