PH navy chief eyes leasing headquarters to fund Navy modernization

Chiara Zambrano, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 28 2019 07:24 PM

MANILA - The chief of Philippine Navy on Wednesday said he wanted to lease the Philippine Navy Headquarters (HPN) in Roxas Boulevard, Manila to fund the Navy's modernization efforts. 

“Kung i-sell mo to, aabutin ng P60 billion. 'Pag i-lease mo, somehow it’s P40 million. That will be enough to start the modern project of the Navy we are in," Vice Admiral Robert Empedrad told reporters.

(If you sell this (HPN), it will sell up to P60 billion. If you lease it, it can render P40 million. That will be enough to start the modern project of the Navy we are in.)

Empedrad said various groups have shown intent to lease the valuable property but he has to consider President Rodrigo Duterte’s instructions.

“May mga companies nang nakikipag-engage sa atin. If yung dagat sa tabi niyo ay ma-reclaim yan, then we lease that because the President doesn’t want us to sell our real estate. Kung i-lease mo 'yun, then we can come up with additional funds to support our modernization,” Empedrad said. 

(There are companies who are now engaging with us. If the sea beside HPN will be reclaimed, then we lease that because the President doesn’t want us to sell our real estate. If you lease that, then we can come up with additional funds to support our modernization.)

Empedrad said if the lease project pushes through, Navy can hold office either in Sangley in Cavite City or the Bonifacio Naval Station. 

Last June, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told the Philippine Coast Guard about plans to refile the Military and Uniformed Personnel Pension Fund, which proposes opening up of some military real estates for joint or commercial development in order to generate more funds for military pension.

But Empedrad wants potential profit from the use of the HPN to address the Navy’s needs. 

“As the Flag Officer-in-Command, ako lang yung nag-initiate to raise funds for our modernization,” he said.

(As the Flag Officer-in-Command, I was the only one who initiated to raise funds for our modernization.)

“I would rather use it to modernize our Navy,” added Empedrad, who has yet to consult with the national government about his proposal.

Lorenzana previously said the Philippine Navy has a “very small capability” to respond to intrusions to the country’s territorial waters, especially the West Philippine Sea, as he presented the country's defense budget to lawmakers.

The Department of National Defense is seeking a P29-billion budget for the Navy in 2020, up 4.3 percent from its current P27.84-billion funding this year, according to the agency's data presented to members of the House Appropriations Committee.

Last month, several Chinese vessels were seen passing through the Sibutu Strait in Mindanao, but the Navy only began to prepare protocols for unauthorized intrusions last week after President Duterte said that foreign vessels needed permission from the government before they could pass through Philippine waters, Lorenzana said.

Manila protested the passage of Chinese warships through Sibutu Strait and the swarm of 113 Chinese vessels around Filipino-occupied Pag-asa Island, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon had said.