05 Agustus 2015
The SBMS acquisition project will be replaced by higher priority projects (photo : Kongsberg)
MANILA - The Department of National Defense (DND) has junked the Army’s P6.5-billion Shore-Based Missile System (SBMS), a government-to-government negotiated deal with Israel, and realigned this territorial external defense capability to purchase ballistic vests, helmets, and rifles, among others.
“The SBMS acquisition project will be replaced by higher priority projects that aim to provide support and protection for soldiers in the field due to the rising security situation in the WPS (West Philippine Sea) and the continuing terrorist acts by the enemies of the government of the Philippines,” according to a two-page letter from Patrick Velez, Assistant Secretary for Acquisition, Installation, and Logistics (ASAIL), to Mr. Avi Felder, president of the Israel Military Industries (IMI).
In a letter dated 22 July 2015, a copy of which was obtained by InterAksyon.com, Velez clarified that the SBMS project is not shelved, its implementation only deferred from the 1st Horizon Project (2013-2017) to the 2nd Horizon Project (2018-2023).
But Malacanang has not yet confirmed if President Benigno Aquino has approved the DND decision.
Velez said the decision to use the P6.5 billion for personal protection of soldiers was a result of the 69th Senior Leaders Round-Table Discussion (SLRTD) on the Defense Acquisition System (DAS) on 10 June 2015.
Implications to foreign relations
Expectedly, the Israel Military Industries was shocked over the action of the DND and has been considering the filing of a diplomatic protest.
Aquino and Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin earlier promised that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) would achieve minimum credible external defense capability before their term ends in 2016.
On 18 December 2014, the DND’s Special Bids and Awards Committee 1 (SBAC1) declared the IMI as the Singled Calculated Responsive Bidder (SCRB) for the project.
The IMI had just been waiting for the issuance of the Notice of Award (NOA) when in May then Army chief and now Armed Forces chief of staff Gen. Hernando Irriberi sought the realignment of the project.
This after the local representative of IMI filed criminal and administrative charges against him before the Office of the Ombudsman for alleged undue delay of the implementation of at least three ammunition projects worth P97.8 million.
Sources from the Ombudsman said the cases are due for resolution in connection with the supplier’s prayer for a six-month preventive suspension against Irriberi.
According to former National Security Adviser (NSA) and now Paranaque City Representative Roilo Golez, the SBMS project would have been a good move to jump-start Aquino’s promise of minimum credible external defense capability against the aggression of China in the WPS where it was reclaiming coral reefs into artificial islands as part of its expansionist policy in the region.
He slammed Irriberi for recommending in haste the realignment of the SBMS and urged the Commission on Appointments (CA) not to confirm him.
Implementation of the SBMS project, if not realigned, would have started this October and completed during the first half of 2016.