16 Mei 2010
Singapore-made Landing Platform Docks (photo : Militaryphotos)
MANILA, Philippines - Outgoing Defense Secretary Norberto Gonzales is rushing the acquisition of one or two multi-role vessels through a government-to-government contract at a cost of from P5 billion to P10 billion.
“I hope it is not considered a midnight purchase. We will try to have it finalized,” Gonzales said in an ambush interview at the Philippine Navy headquarters yesterday. He was at the Navy headquarters to formally install as new Navy Flag Officer in Command in an acting capacity Rear Admiral Danilo Cortez, who replaced retired Vice Admiral Ferdinand Golez.
To fast track documentation and acquisition of the vessels, Gonzales also announced that he was “borrowing” Golez from his family to be his defense consultant.
“I asked him (Golez) to render his services to the Defense department for him to see all the aspects of the modernization program, particularly for the Navy,” Gonzales said. It was not clear how long Golez would serve as consultant.
Gonzales said the vessels would likely come from South Korea or Singapore.
Several quarters have been questioning Gonzales’ motives in setting aside public bidding in favor of government-to-government deals in the acquisition of military vehicles and equipment.
With barely 45 days left in office as Defense chief, Gonzales stressed that a government-to-government transaction is the fastest way to acquire the needed equipment for the Armed Forces’ modernization.
He said a government-to-government deal, instead of a private contract, is a guarantee against corruption.
He added that the vessels could be delivered within two years from signing of contract.
The acquisition would be funded from the budget for military modernization in 2009 and this year totaling P10 billion.
“The AFP already has a list of what should be acquired in 2009, so we’re looking at 2009 and 2010 because it’s already 2010,” he said.
Aside from the P10 billion, Gonzales said a multi-year “obligational authority” from Congress would ensure funds for the procurement and purchases by the Defense department.
“There’s already an approved list of acquisition for 2009 and for 2010. Once these lists are approved and (government-to-government contract) signed, delivery would be within two years,” Gonzales.
He added that several night attack helicopters for the Air Force are already due for delivery.
The STAR learned that these attack helicopters were reconditioned Cobra combat helicopters which the Defense department purchased for more than P3 billion from Israel.
The government-to-government procurement has drawn suspicion because the units acquired were not new contrary to President Arroyo’s instructions.
“What we’ve got are reconditioned, not brand new,” a defense insider said.