By Argyll Cyrus Geducos
BUSAN, South Korea — The Philippines and South Korea inked a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on defense cooperation on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations-Republic of Korea (ASEAN-ROK) Commemorative Summit here Tuesday.
In a statement, South Korea’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) said its minister, Wang Jung-hong, and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana signed an MOU on the procurement of certain defense materials.
It said the arrangement was expected to enable greater defense exports by South Korean companies through more contracts with the Philippine government.
“The arrangement is expected to allow more South Korean companies to be able to make contracts with the Philippine government so as to promote their defense exports to the Southeast Asian country,” DAPA said.
However, in an interview here, Lorenzana said the Philippines will not be procuring arms from South Korea but the country has bought from them two frigates–BRP Rizal and BRP Luna–which they hope to arrive in the country before President Duterte steps down from office.
“Yung BRP Rizal malapit nang matapos, ongoing na yung sea trial so nandoon na sa dagat ngayon tinitesting na siya (The BRP Rizal is nearing its completion and is now undergoing sea trial). It will be delivered sometime in May, April or May next year,” he said.
“Yung BRP Luna naman mga (The BRP Luna, on the other hand, may be completed by) December next year. Hindi naman ‘yan pang offensive, pang defensive lang (It will be used for defense, not offense),” he added.
Lorenzana said the Philippines also wanted to buy two corvettes from South Korea but said the country was still planning how to finance the procurement.
“Inaayos pa namin yung financing kasi nga wala tayong perang pambayad kaagad (We’re still trying to figure out the financing because we do not have the money yet to pay for the two corvettes),” he said.
“If they can give us generous financing that we can pay, maybe, in a period of three to five years later on. Siguro gagawin nila yung corvettes natin (Maybe they will start assembling our corvettes then),” he added.
Lorenzana said he wanted to finish the negotiations by December this year so Hyundai Heavy Industries can start building the corvettes by January 2020.
He said that the two corvettes, which cost P25 billion, will be used to patrol the southern part of the country, particularly the Sulu and Celebes seas, but not in the West Philippine Sea as corvettes may not be able to handle the huge waves in the disputed waters because they are smaller than frigates.