Continued fund availability to allow AFP modernization

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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

THE Defense department expects to have a continued stream of funds for the next six years that will allow the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to upgrade its equipment.

In a hearing at the Senate, Defense Undersecretary Fernando Manalo told senators that the department expects to get P5 billion for the AFP Modernization Program in the General Appropriations Act for 2012.

Yearly appropriations will be increased to P8 billion from 2013 to 2016, he added. The Bases Conversion and Development Authority will, meanwhile, bring in P900 million a year or a total of P5.4 billion by 2016.


As a result, a total of P42.4 billion will be made available from 2011 to 2016 to modernize the AFP, officials said Wednesday.

Senator Panfilo Lacson, chairman of the Senate defense committee and a former national police chief, said the Department of National Defense will have to play catch up for the "cumulative effect of several administrations" that failed to implement the AFP Modernization Program.

The program was created by law in 1995 and will expire this year with the AFP still "lacking the needed weapons and equipment to fulfill its mandate," Lacson said.

Lacson has filed a bill to extend the program for another 15 years "to finish the modernization program with concrete results."

The law would have given the AFP P331 billion for weapons and equipment but only P34 billion was ever released during the lifespan of the AFP Modernization Program.

Manalo added that a Special Allotment Release Order giving the AFP P525 million in the 2006 budget expired before it could be spent because of the military's "complex" procurement process.

Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, a former Navy officer, has filed a bill to relax a provision in the AFP Modernization Act requiring the AFP to buy only equipment that is being used by the armed forces of the country of origin of the equipment, or is used by the military of at least two other countries.

Trillanes has proposed letting the military buy equipment that is either used by the Armed Forces in its r country of origin or by at least one other country.

He said the current procurement process is "highly tedious" and "cumbersome" and has been a major obstruction in modernizing the AFP.

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin asked the Senate to exempt major military purchases from public bidding to make the process of buying military hardware simpler and faster.

Department of Budget and Management Director Tina Canda said, however, that AFP fund's "transparency proviso might no longer prevail" if that is allowed.

The DND, in a position paper, said defense planning should be done through the Defense System of Management (DSOM), a multi-year planning and procurement process "to be implemented by the DND-AFP for the immediately succeeding years."

Under DSOM, each step of the procurement process will require the approval of the Defense secretary.

Gazmin also asked for legislative support for public-private partnerships on properties owned by the AFP and DND, and a greater percentage of revenues from the Malampaya natural gas project "and other energy explorations."

The BRP Gregorio Del Pilar, an ex-US Coast Guard patrol cutter, was bought with funds from the Malampaya project. It is the Philippine Navy's newest and biggest ship.

Senator Gregorio Honasan II, a former soldier, said the AFP should focus on equipping soldiers who can move, communicate, and shoot (MCS). "MCS should be your starting point, then we can move forward," he said. (Jonathan de Santos/Sunnex)

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