Press Release
September 17, 2016

As PH goes arms shopping, gov't must eye Cebu-made ships, tap local industries--Recto

Senate Minority Leader Ralph Recto is supporting the country's "pivot" to a wider global market in sourcing military material, but reminded Malacañang not to bypass local industries which can provide parts or whole of the defense equipment being sought.

Recto said President Duterte's home province of Cebu can even build coastal patrol ships.

"As a son of Cebu and especially Danao, the President should be the first to recognize the ingenuity of our local craftsmen," Recto said, referring to the city famous for gunsmiths. "This is not to say that we buy guns from them, but this is just to cite their resourcefulness."

He said the country's car manufacturing industry can supply military and police vehicles, "foreclosing the need to buy them abroad."

"There are also firearms factories in the country, some of which were licensees of world's leading gun makers," Recto added.

"While many equipment, like planes, can only be bought abroad, I think those which can be locally built should be given preference, and if some components can be manufactured here, we should insist that it should be," Recto said.

The province of Cebu, according to Recto, can help the Department of Transportation (DOTr) develop "affordable but cutting edge technology" for building patrol boats of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG).

"If we are also looking for boats that will be used by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) for their research and conservation programs, these can also be built in Cebu," Recto said.

"We have a world-class shipbuilding industry in Cebu, but our government agencies have yet to harness its potential as a major source of military and civilian boats," said Recto, who is one of the authors of the AFP Modernization Act (RA 10349) and the principal sponsor of the Domestic Shipping Act (RA 9295).

Recto said the government has a deficit of floating vessels which Cebu and other areas where shipbuilders operate, like Navotas and Bataan, can help wipe out.

"We need a hospital ship or two. Kahit maliit lang. You know we are an archipelago. And when there's a typhoon, and the roads are destroyed, the only way to reach the victims is by sea," he said.

"If we're buying boats either for coastal or river patrol, then let our local shipyards make them. The weaponry can come from abroad pero siguro yung barko pwede na dito," he said. "If other nations find our ships exceptional, then we should too."

Recto noted that the Philippines has been recognized as the fourth largest shipbuilder in the world, having shipyards with facilities that produce container ships, passenger ships, and ferries.

Recto said that by buying local, government will be supporting local firms, creating local jobs and giving the manufacturing sector a much-needed boost.

"Buy local, create jobs. This should be the new mantra of the DND, DOTr and other government agencies for their procurement programs," the senator added.

"What we can manufacture here, we don't have to import from abroad. One good example are the car plates. A small piece of tin we chose to source from the Netherlands. Yet here we are building megaton ships," he said.

Recto described government as a huge supplies and equipment buyer, with a budget in the hundreds of billions annually. "From soap to cars, from paper to guns, government buys these in bulk."

For 2016, national government alone will be buying P73.5 billion worth of supplies and materials, not only for many "common-use" items for offices, but also medicine for hospitals and parts for its vehicle fleet.

To the extent allowed by law, government must prefer local products or those with high local content in shopping for these, Recto said.

But in buying locally-made, "price points should not be the sole consideration," he said. "We should not be buying a lemon just because it is wrapped in a Philippine flag. Quality should not be sacrificed."

Recto recalled a provision in previous national budgets--which has been scrapped in the General Appropriations Act for 2016-- which mandated government purchases of Philippine-made products.

This provision should make a comeback in the 2017 budget, Recto said.

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