By: Dexter Cabalza, Philippine Daily Inquirer / M January 18, 2021
A local shipbuilder is considering building bigger vessels for territorial defense and patrolling of the country’s waters in the near future.
Propmech Corp. said it was “definitely interested” to work with the government to develop larger naval assets that could be deployed to the country’s territorial waters for long-haul patrol and security.
“The [Philippine] Navy, the government is an important partner of ours, an important client … We help with the equipment and in other cases, we would be very interested to work together to provide larger assets for the Navy,” Glenn Tong, director of Propmech, said in an online briefing.
Propmech built for the Philippine Navy 12 small but potent multipurpose attack craft (MPACs), which evolved into four versions from 2007 to 2019. Each vessel costs P270 million.
MPAC Mk III, three of which were delivered to the Philippine Navy in 2017, was modified and upgraded with Spike ER (extended range) surface-to-surface missile system of Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd of Israel.
Three MPAC Mk IVs were delivered last year, and currently being tested.
The MPACs have played key roles in the Navy’s coastal defense efforts.
The MPAC’s speed and power were proven during the military’s encounter with members of the Abu Sayyaf off the waters of Sulu Sea on Nov. 3, 2020.
While the Philippine Air Force provided aerial support with its Agusta attack helicopter, the Navy used its two MPAC Mk IIIs to engage the terrorist’s speedboat.
The chase and 25-minute gun battle ended in the killing of seven Abu Sayyaf members and the sinking of their boat.
Propmech said the ballistic armor of the MPAC prevented it from sustaining significant damage and left the Navy crew unharmed despite taking heavy fire from the Abu Sayyaf.
Besides combat missions, MPACs can be used for rescue and transport of personnel.
Vice Adm. Robert Empedrad, former Navy flag officer in command, said in 2018 that the Navy needed 42 MPACs in its fleet to defend the country’s waters.
Jon Osias, sales and operations manager of Propmech, said the company could build 30 more MPACs in the future.