Bong Go: Frigate deal controversy endangering national security

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FILE PHOTO

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 19) — President Rodrigo Duterte's right-hand man Bong Go on Monday denied his involvement in the Navy frigate deal, adding the controversy poses danger to national security.

"Labis na kailangan ng Philippine Navy ang proyektong ito sa pagpatrolya sa ating karagatan. But this controversy is seriously derailing the implementation of this security measure," the Special Assistant to the President said during the first Senate hearing on the Armed Forces of the Philippines modernization program.

[Translation: The Philippine Navy badly needs this project to protect our seas, but this controversy is seriously derailing the implementation of this security measure.]

The Frigate Acquisition Project (FAP) is one of the big-ticket projects of the Armed Forces of the Philippines' (AFP) modernization program, as it seeks to provide the country with the capability to deal with air, surface and sub-surface threats.

The acquisition of the two frigates is seen as the first step to provide the Navy with modern warships to protect the country's maritime territories.

Go believes the implementation of the program is being blocked.

"Perhaps, this is really their intention...to block the implementation of this important security program and ensure that this administration will fail," he said.

He again denied intervening in the process by backing a South Korean firm as a supplier for the Combat Management System (CMS) for the two Navy warships in a project worth P15.5 billion.

The CMS is known as the ship's "brain," which integrates all of its sensors and weapons.

"I did not intervene in the acquisition of the two frigates by the DND (Department of National Defense) nor interfere in the selection of its combat management system," he said.

 

Prior to the hearing, Go said President Rodrigo Duterte advised him to only speak the truth, and to not go into an executive session.

In a white paper sent to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana in January 2017, Go supposedly recommended South Korean Company Hanwha Thales as CMS provider. The Philippine Navy, then under Vice Admiral Ronald Mercado, preferred Tacticos Thales of Netherlands.

The sacked navy chief cleared Duterte and Go in the issue, saying they showed no interest in the controversial deal.

"Secretary Bong Go never approached me over frigate deal,"  aid Mercado, who headed the technical working group that worked on the frigate deal. 

Mercado was relieved from his post in December last year for supposedly delaying the deal's implementation. During the hearing, he denied allegations of insubordination.

"I have never disobeyed any order... I vehemently deny the allegations," he said on Monday.

Go added people should stop using their names or that of Duterte's, as the President will not allow any name-dropping to push for government contracts.