The militant Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) sought deferment of the controversial P30-billion purchase of offshore patrol vessels (OPVs) for the Philippine Navy to allow for the incoming Marcos administration to decide on the matter.
The group also sought to cut in the bud the purchase it described as a “midnight deal that is grossly disadvantageous to the Philippine government, and to the Philippine defense industry in particular.”
The VACC also threatened to press appropriate charges against government officials involved in the transaction, including Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.
In a letter to President-elect Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr., VACC president Arsenio Evangelista Jr. stated that the ongoing post-qualification process of Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) of South Korea should be stopped, and the TOR reviewed by the next administration.
He said the HHI’s offer to deliver Completely Built Units (CBUs), based on the revised TOR “does not conform to the objectives of the government’s Self-Reliance Defense Posture program as mandated by Republic Act 10349.
The group deplored that the “in-country shipbuilding” and the “transfer-of-technology” components appear to have been deleted in the terms of reference (TOR) as revised by the special bids and awards committee (SBAC) and presented for approval by Lorenzana.
These provisions were incorporated in the original TOR that was approved by a Philippine Navy technical working group, Philippine Navy senior leaders, and AFP senior leaders.
Evangelista stated that these provisions were inexplicably removed in the revised TOR that was presented to Lorenzana for his signature.
“A P30-billion ship procurement program with mandatory ‘in-country shipbuilding’ and ‘Transfer of Technology’ provisions, presents a golden opportunity to jump-start the defense shipbuilding industry in the country. Why did they arbitrarily remove this provision?” he said.
“Secretary Lorenzana is a man of integrity and the only plausible explanation is that he was not properly briefed about the elimination of these provisions in the TOR that he was made to sign.”
“There are also numerous economic benefits to the Filipinos and the local shipbuilding industry from the expected transfer of technology if these OPVs are built in-country.”
The VACC also said there were other suppliers with “in-country shipbuilding” and transfer-of-technology components in their submitted bids.
Thus, it would be prudent for the DND to look at these other offers before making a final decision.
Citing various problems confronting the country — among them, the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and the runaway prices of fuel—Evangelista said that with P12.68 trillion in national debt, “the last thing our country needs right now is another repeat of the Pharmally scandal.”
The VACC urged Lorenzana to reconsider and investigate the SBAC’s stance to doggedly pursue the OPV project, which now has all the appearances of a “midnight deal” with HHI.
The group urged Lorenzana to give the incoming Marcos administration “ample time and opportunity to thoroughly study the offers made, and award the project to the worthiest proponent with the most appealing in-country shipbuilding and transfer-of-technology components, and thus provide the country and the Filipino people with the most advantageous terms and benefits.”