Naval officer, who helped design PHL missile-firing frigates, is new PN acting head

MANILA — Vice Admiral Ronald Joseph Mercado, the naval officer who headed the technical working group which came out with the design specifications of the country’s first-ever missile firing frigates, is now acting Philippine Navy (PN) flag-officer-in-command.

Mercado assumed leadership of the PN after Vice Admiral Caesar Taccad, a member of Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Class of 1982, formally retired from the service Saturday, a day before his 56th birthday which is the mandatory retirement age for all military personnel.

The final design of the PN’s missile-firing frigates includes a capability to conduct air-to-air warfare,anti-surface warfare, anti-submarine warfare, and electronic warfare.

The contract was won by Hyundai Heavy Industries after it submitted a bid of USD336.9 million, or about Php 15.74 billion.

The project has a budget of Php 18 billion, with Php 2 billion allocated for the weapon systems and munitions.

Retirement and change-of-command ceremonies took place at the Sailor Heroes’ Memorial, Naval Base Heracleo Alano, Sangley Point, Cavite City.

Outgoing Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff Gen. Ricardo Visaya graced the event and handed the PN flag to Mercado who is now concurrently holding two positions as acting Navy chief and Western Command head.

“The Philippine Navy will continue to focus on the development and sustainment of Fleet and Marine forces for operations,” the acting PN chief said.

Mercado has been in the active military service for 37 years now. He is a member of PMA Class of 1983.

He held various positions of major responsibility before taking the helm as the Navy chief.

Foremost of these were being the Philippine Fleet commander, Navy vice commander and Naval Staff chief.

Mercado is a well decorated military professional and a graduate of numerous military courses here and abroad.

His predecessor, Taccad capped off his military career at the top of Navy hierarchy wherein he made sure that the AFP’s naval arm would continue performing its constitutional mandate and sustain its efforts toward modernization.

Taccad’s term, which started Aug. 10, 2015, was highlighted by the acquisitions of floating assets that significantly improved the PN capability, especially in the conduct of humanitarian assistance and disaster response (HADR) operations, such as the Navy’s newest and biggest vessel to date, the amphibious landing dock BRP Tarlac (LD-601), as well as the recently launched second vessel of the same type in Indonesia, which is due for delivery to the Philippines next year; three additional landing craft heavies from Australia; research vessel BRP Gregorio Velasquez (AGR-702); and third Hamilton-class cutter, BRP Andres Bonifacio (FF-17). Priam Nepomuceno/PNA-northboundasia.com