The Philippines is set to buy two Maestrale-class frigates from Italy, Defense Undersecretary Fernando Manalo said Wednesday. The acquisition of the two frigates, along with 12 FA-50 fighter aircraft bought from South Korea, are the most significant items on the government’s $1.7 billion (75 billion peso) military modernization budget over the next five years.
The main drive for this military modernization is the continued conflict with China, over the Philippine-claimed areas in the South China Sea. The Philippines initially considered buying the frigates from Italian Navy surplus, but later opted for more expensive, yet brand new vessels of the same type. The vessels are likely to be built by the original designer, the Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri, that have built eight such frigates in 1981 – 1985. The Italian made frigates would be able to carry a more powerful weaponry, compared to the two refurbished and re-armed Hamilton-class cutters Manila acquired from the USA.
Manalo said the navy had already decided to acquire two new Maestrale-class frigates instead of buying used ones from the Italian navy (the Italians wanted $270 million for the refurbished vessels). As it seems, Manila has added $130 to get brand new vessels of the same type, for about $400 million. The Philippines could be ready to tender by the end of the year, Manalo added. The modernization budget also provides for building or improving facilities to berth and provide maintenance to the vessels on the military’s shopping list, Manalo said. A similar amount was allocated for the South Korean fighter planes, he added.