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2 choppers for new PHL warships to arrive September —Navy chief

BAGUIO CITY — Two helicopters that will be part of the two new warships of the Philippine Navy will be delivered in September.

“Oo, may darating na chopper sa September of this year, dalawa,” Navy flag-officer-in-command Rear Admiral Robert Empedrad told reporters during the Philippine Military Academy Alumni Homecoming on Saturday.

“Kasama ng frigate ‘yun supposed to be, laging sakay sa frigate dapat ‘yun,” he added, referring to the two warships built by South Korean company Hyundai Heavy Industries.

The frigate deal became controversial after then Navy Flag-Officer-In-Command Vice Admiral Ronald Joseph Mercado was relieved from the post for alleged insubordination and supposedly “jeopardizing” the frigate deal.

Special Assistant to the President Secretary Christopher “Bong” Go’s was also dragged into the issue for his alleged intervention in the selection of the Combat Management System (CMS) supplier for two Navy warships.

Go, backed up by the Palace, had denied the allegation.

Empedrad and Defense chief Delfin Lorenzana had also denied that Go intervened in the selection of the company that will supply the CMS.

Empedrad said that the helicopters will be delivered ahead of the two frigates because the Navy procured it even before the deal for the warships were signed.

Empedrad said the choppers were from AugustaWestland Limited.

Defense officials earlier said the choppers will boost the country's capability to defend its interest in the West Philippine Sea.

The Senate committee on national defense and security will conduct a hearing on the P15-billion frigate deal on Monday.

Go had said he will attend the hearing. Defense and Philippine Navy officials are also expected to attend. —ALG, GMA News