The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has forced the delay of the delivery of the Philippine Navy’s (PN) second brand new frigate, the future BRP Antonio Luna (FF-151).
In a virtual briefing on Monday, Vice Admiral Giovanni Carlo Bacordo, PN Flag Officer in Command, said the future BRP Antonio Luna was supposed to be delivered in October 2020 but travel restrictions and other concerns due to the health crisis prompted the parties involved to move it to the first quarter of 2021.
“We are expecting the delivery of the second frigate, the BRP Antonio Luna, in the first quarter of calendar year 2021. If not for this COVID-19 pandemic, the second frigate should have been delivered October of this year,” he said.
The future BRP Antonio Luna is the sister ship of the BRP Jose Rizal (FF-150) which was delivered by South Korean ship maker Hyundai Heavy Industries, Inc. in May 2020.
Aside from the second frigate, other acquisitions that have been impacted by the pandemic include the light armored systems upgrade and acquisition of squad rocket launcher light of the Philippine Marine Corps.
The delivery of the first unit of eight fast attack interdiction craft missiles from Israel was also delayed, Bacordo said.
A small but agile warship, the first unit of the fast attack craft was originally scheduled to be delivered in December 2022 but has been moved to the first quarter of 2021.
The acquisition of two landing docks, which is currently at the post qualification stage, was also temporarily suspended by the Navy. These strategic sealift vessels are intended to act as reinforcements to the two Tarlac-class landing docks, the BRP Tarlac and BRP Davao del Sur.
“We have other projects which took the backstage because of this COVID-19 pandemic,” Bacordo said, referring to the purchase projects for its shore-based anti-ship missile system, shore-based air defense missile system, and the country’s first ever submarine.
“While [they have] been approved by the President, it may be deferred until the national emergency has ceased,” he explained.
Last month, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said that the Department of National Defense took a P19.3-billion budget cut to fund the government’s COVID-19 response efforts.
Of these, about P9.4 billion were originally set for the second horizon of the modernization program of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
Bacordo projected that the pandemic will delay more acquisition projects under the modernization program by one-and-a-half to two years.