Philippine navy chief removed for questioning frigate deal

The Philippine defense secretary says he has removed the navy chief from his post after the latter defiantly opposed an already-approved deal to buy two frigates from a South Korean shipbuilder and caused delays to the acquisition of the warships.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana's remarks Wednesday about the cause of Vice Adm. Ronald Joseph Mercado's relief is a rare public disclosure of a top-level disagreement within the military and defense department. Mercado was not being investigated for any wrongdoing and was moved to another military office.

Lorenzana says he "lost trust and confidence" in Mercado and questioned his insistence that one company be granted a contract to install a defense feature on the two frigates when that had already been included in the deal granted to Hyundai Heavy Industries.