|The Italian Maestrale-class frigate. The design is already more than 30-years old, why get an old design when new, updated and fresh designs are available worldwide?|
Photo taken from Wikimedia.
The next day, Philippine news reports mostly sourcing their content from the French news agency Agence France-Presse (AFP), have published headlines saying that the Philippines will be buying new Maestrale-class frigates from Italy. As one of the largest and oldest news organization with a history of reliable and wide coverage news, it was also picked-up by major foreign-based news outfits, defense and shipping-related publications and internet news, and even blogs and forums. And everything was history.
|To those familiar with ship design, you could already see the big difference in technology between a 1970s warship design like the Maestrale-class here....|
|...and this new frigate design from the 21st century. Notice the sleek and smooth lines of the ship design that contributes to the stealthy features of the warship?|
Analyzing the press conference remarks by Mr. Manalo and raw transcripts posted by TheInsider at Timawa Philippine Defense Forum (which fortunately is available online), we can see that Mr. Manalo indeed made an unintended but damaging mistake of saying "buy a new Maestrale". But looking further it appears that he actually meant "buy a new frigate". Mr. Manalo wanted to say frigate, but instead said Maestrale.
|DND Undersecretary for Finance, Munitions, Installations and Materiel Fernando I. Manalo.|
Photo taken from Interaksyon.com
Although it was a mistake made by Mr. Manalo, MaxDefense does not totally take it against him, rather it was also the mistake of the press. The press just simply quoted USec. Manalo, right? Wrong. Judging from the entirety of the press conference, it shows that the press was not taking into consideration what Mr. Manalo was discussing all along. Or worse, they did not understand what Mr. Manalo was talking about.
|Bidding for new frigates were discussed during the press conference. Different shipbuilders like Korea's Hyundai Heavy Industries are interested in the program and is offering their Incheon-class frigate.|
Early in the press conference, USec. Manalo explained that the Philippine Navy has just submitted the Acquisition Decision Memorandum or ADM, which provides the basic information and specification to implement the two-stage bidding. It clearly means that bidding will be made, but has not yet started. He also said that the PN will recommend the services of a specialized consultant to guide the PN , probably with regards to system integration, specific technology information, and other needs of the PN Project Management Team that they may not be very familiar with. Again, there is no specialized consultant yet, but hiring is a strong possibility. These information already points out that the PN has not yet chosen any specific bidder or shipbuilding/systems contractor & integrator until that time. But the press ignored these facts (and even all other issues discussed), went straight for the juiciest part of the interview, and made news history.
|New frigate designs, like Daewoo's DW3000H frigate, is available in the market. Why would the PN settle for an old and outdated design?|
|Fincantieri, the Maestrale-class' builder, is now offering new designs like the MOSAIC family.|
Photo taken from Orrizonte Sistemi Navali website.
So to clarify everything, MaxDefense is confident to inform everyone that the Philippine Navy will be buying brand new frigates, and will not be Maestrale-class ships. With this, we refer you back to our original blog topic posted last May on:
"Why the Philippine Navy dropped the Maestrale-class" (http://maxdefense.blogspot.sg/2013/05/why-philippine-navy-dropped-maestrale.html), and
"Proposed Designs Offered to the Philippine Navy Frigate Program of 2013" (http://maxdefense.blogspot.sg/2013/05/proposed-designs-offered-for-philippine.html)
For those who haven't seen or read them yet, these 2 blog topics discuss relevant information on the PN's current frigate program.
MaxDefense suggests that the DND, especially Usec. Manalo, should be more careful in their press releases next time. DND should give importance in giving correct information, and making sure their spokespersons are very familiar with what they discuss to the press. Committing such mistakes causes misinformation of great scale when taken directly by the press, just like what happened to this Maestrale issue. The DND and AFP should also conduct defense information training to its press corps (who also make mistakes as shown in their past press releases), and invite the local press to attend similar workshops and talks.
The press should also give more importance in analyzing their reports and transcripts, give some time for research and reconfirmation before publishing their reports. Mistakes like this happen due to lack of understanding by the press on what they are reporting, even with sufficient information already given to them. Another proposal from MaxDefense is to hire defense-oriented reporters who has enough experience in dealing with defense-related news and information. MaxDefense believes that with the current security issues in the Philippines and in the region, the press will have a lot to handle in terms of defense-related issues in the years to come.