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Headwind in Navy's modernization program (1).

By Floro Mercene

The Armed Forces of the Philippine's (AFP) modernization program appears to have run into foul weather with the relief of the Philippine Navy's (PN) Flag Officer in Command (FOIC), Vice Admiral Ronald Joseph Mercado, last Dec. 19.

VAdm. Mercado was replaced by AFP J9, Rear Admiral Robert Empedrad, although Mercado's retirement is still due March 2018, when he reaches the mandatory retirement age of 56 years old.

This important development appears not to have been covered by the media as there was no formal turn-over. Instead of a full-blown public appearance, as is usually the case, the turn-over ceremony was done in the Office of the Chief of Staff of the AFP.

"The ceremony was simple: just a quick handover ceremony that isn't normal when replacing the head of a major armed service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. VAdm. Mercado will probably be assigned in AFP Headquarters until he retires, which is tantamount to floating status," said the blog #MaxDefense.

The blogger Max Montero is a former naval officer of the Philippine Navy, initially a reservist before becoming an active officer. He is retired and has been following Philippines and regional defense issues, as well as military technology and industrial movements, and developments in regional military upgrades since the mid-1990s.

Airing his views on defense matters in the Philippines and Asia-Pacific region, MaxDefense asked what are the issues behind the Navy's Frigate Acquisition Project.

"And why was the FOIC, VAdm. Mercado, suddenly replaced"

Max Defense said it may have something to do with the mess involving the Philippine Navy's Frigate Acquisition Program. The project is worth P16 billion with another P2 billion allocated for the acquisition of assorted weapon systems and munitions.

Two years ago, the Department of National Defense and the Hyundai Heavy Industries signed the contract for the deal.

Prior to this, the chairman of the PN Technical Inspection and Acceptance Committee (TIAC) and Project Management Team (PMT) of the Frigate Acquisition Project, Commodore Sean Villa was also relieved earlier from his post.

RAdm. Empedrad was formerly the FAP Technical Working Group head, and was Steering Committee member and adviser despite being AFP J9.

(To be continued)

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Title Annotation:Opinions and Editorials
Publication:Manila Bulletin
Date:Dec 21, 2017
Words:366
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