Below a pix of the Fearless-class vessel (in the background) on exercise with the Singapore Police Coast Guard
For more information on the Fearless-class vessels, see this two-part video on the RSS Independence (a Fearless-class vessel) below, of the ship on-patrol, just off Singapore waters: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Amdp4AnEVmkhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=za-R-o6ZklY
The Fearless-class patrol vessels were built locally and attained operational status in 1997 (and it was annouced that the replacement for the the Fearless-class patrol vessels is being planned for and this class will be more than 20 years old by the time Singapore replaces them). The Fearless-class patrol vessels are propelled by waterjets instead of conventional propellers and are responsible for the coastal defence
of Singapore. Five of the Fearless-class patrol vessels are armed for anti-submarine warfare missions (ASW) (one was damaged beyond economic repair in a a collision with a container ship in the Singapore Strait) and the other six for surface warfare (and can be fitted with SSMs). The ASW vessels are fitted with Thales Underwater Systems TSM 2362 Gudgeon hull-mounted medium frequency active sonar. There's nothing fancy about these vessels and they are designed with a number of specific roles in mind. If the role suits the Philippines, then it can be considered (the right tool, at the right price, for the right role).
Since 1997, the Fearless-class vessels have played a critical role in managing Malaysian attempts at intrusion in the waters around Pedra Branca and as you may know, Pedra Branca has been a source of bilateral tension between Singapore and Malaysia since 21 December 1979 (when Malaysia unilaterally redrew their maps and claimed Pedra Branca as their territory). These incidents of tension have been documented by Prof. S. Jayakumar and Prof. Tommy Koh in a 2009 book called "Pedra Branca: The Road to the World Court
". I note that in 1989, the then Prime Minister of Malaysia, Dr Mahathir Mohamad (Dr M) made an unannounced visit to the vicinity of Pedra Branca. His boat was intercepted by Singapore naval vessels. To avoid an international incident, he directed his boat to leave. And yet despite Dr M's role in instigating of some of these events, in the interest of maintaining bilateral relations, LKY has said
:"And when the Youth Wing of the Malaysian Islamic Party or PAS threatened to invade Pedra Branca to plant a Malaysian flag, Dr Mahathir Mohamad stopped them and warned that it could lead to war."
Beyond the above incidents, it is also a matter of ICJ court record that Malaysia which had in the past arrested Singapore's fishing vessels to increase tensions, including through the use of physical violence against Singapore fishermen in the vicinity of Pedra Branca. In contrast, Singapore has never arrested any Malaysian fishermen in Pedra Branca waters. Singapore's policy towards fishermen in Pedra Branca waters was clearly stated in Singapore's diplomatic note to Malaysia dated 16 June 1989:"Singapore Marine Police and Navy patrols often find Malaysian vessels in Singapore territorial waters, fishing in what they claim to be traditional fishing grounds. Singapore has not arrested these boats. Wherever possible, it has allowed them to continue fishing. Where this is not possible for security or other reasons, the Singapore authorities have asked them to leave instead of arresting them."
Further, at page 46 of the book by Prof. Jayakumar and Prof. Koh, the two authors stated that: "Of particular concern was a marked increase in the number of intrusions of Malaysian Government vessels in the waters around Pedra Branca. For example, from the period 1990-2000, there were some 64 incidents. However, in the next eight years from the period 2000-2008, there were a total of 563 recorded intrusions with the highest number of incidents (167) in 2007 alone. These Malaysian actions did not make any sense to us because the Court would take into account only the conduct and activities of both sides prior to the critical date."
The incidents quoted above are a clear indication of hostile intent by the Malaysian Government as they try to create 'alert fatigue' for the Singapore forces deployed there. The fact that incidents after 24 July 2003, made no legal sense at all (as that was the date both countries issued a joint notification to the Registrar of the ICJ, with regards to the agreement to adjudicate the dispute), is an indication of Malaysian hostility
(which contributes to the bilateral trust deficit). Looking at the pattern of behaviour, it is clear that the Malaysians were potentially planning an incident if the ICJ ruling was unfavorable (but thankfully, UMNO were able to claim that the ICJ judgment was win-win). Just because the Singapore Government and Singapore media outlets do not play-up these Malaysian initiated incidents from 2000-2008 does not mean that it was not happening. The SAF needed to be prepared for the relevant contingency that may arise from Malaysian actions with the appropriate escalation options to deter them.
BTW, Singapore has developed a command, control and communiations system, called the RSN's ACCESS System. This ACCESS System fosters closer cooperation between the RSN and foreign navies. It's essentially a roll-on command, control and communications module that is paid for by Singapore, to bring onto a foreign navy ship, on exercise with the RSN. RSN's ACCESS System provides navy ships with a common sea situation picture between navy ships in multilateral exercises, allowing commanders access to information to make better informed decisions. This also includes a online-chat feature and file transfer capability. This means that foreign navies on exercise with the RSN do not have to pay for the ACCESS System to train with our navy guys. If Philippines is serious about building up your navy's ASW capabilities, try to work with navies, like the RSN, that can be of help to your guys (and we have a couple of diesel electric submarines your navy can train against in exercises).
Taking training seriously just takes commitment (which is clearly demonstrated on the two-part video). phichanad, you should watch the two-part video to get an idea of the operational role of these Fearless-class vessels. I hope this post and the video links provided helps clarify.