The Philippines on Tuesday signed a deal worth US$554 million to buy two small warships from a South Korean manufacturer, officials said, as Manila seeks to modernize its navy amid security threats perceived over territorial disputes in the South China Sea.
Philippine Secretary of Defense Delfin Lorenzana and Ka Sam Hyun, a representative of shipbuilder Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI), signed the agreement for Manila to purchase two corvettes that will have anti-ship and anti-submarine capabilities. -marines.
The agreement is in addition to the Philippine Navy’s recent acquisition of two frigates, also built by HHI, as well as a refurbished Pohang-class corvette from the South Korean Navy, the only ships in the fleet equipped with these capabilities, officials said.
“I share the jubilation of our gallant sailors and marines, the entire Armed Forces of the Philippines as well as the entire nation for this acquisition of two more fixed assets for our Philippine Navy,” Lorenzana said in a statement.
“This project will give the Philippine Navy two modern corvettes capable of anti-ship, anti-submarine and anti-aircraft missions.”
The upgrade comes amid growing challenges for the Philippines in the South China Sea, particularly from China, which has boosted its presence in territories claimed by its smaller neighbors in Southeast Asia.
In 2021, the Philippines faced a backlash from China as Manila repeatedly protested the presence of hundreds of fishing boats allegedly manned by Chinese militias in Manila’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
In November, Chinese Coast Guard vessels near Second Thomas Shoal fired water cannons at Philippine boats as part of a mission to resupply a naval detachment aboard a rusting ship dating from the Second World War II, the BRP Sierra Madre, which serves as an outpost in the Philippines on the bench.
Manila filed a diplomatic protest over the incident, but Beijing brushed it off and followed by demanding the ship be removed.
Corvettes and frigates are smaller, highly maneuverable warships commonly deployed to protect large ships from enemy attack.
The two corvettes, which are to be delivered by 2026 according to media reports, “will serve as a safety net” for the two frigates, the Philippine defense chief said.
Along with the new warships, the Philippines is to acquire another decommissioned Pohang-class corvette from South Korea early next year.
These acquisitions will strengthen the nation’s naval capability, the Secretary of Defense said.
“We have already come a long way in our modernization, and with this additional acquisition, we are one step closer to a more capable fleet,” Lorenzana said.
Purchasing the corvettes from HHI, the same company that built the Philippine Navy frigates, BRP Jose Rizal and BRP Antonio Luna, will make it easier to repair and maintain them, Lorenzana said.
Each of the corvettes will weigh 3,200 tons and be 116 meters long. They will be able to reach a maximum speed of 25 knots and a cruising speed of 15 knots, with a range of 4,500 nautical miles.
Each will have eight anti-ship missile launchers, a 35mm close-in weapon system, a 76mm main gun, two three-tube torpedo launchers and an Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar, HHI said.
Reported by BenarNews, an online news service affiliated with RFA.