SENATOR Francis Escudero said Tuesday the government should discard the old practice of acquiring “old and dilapidated” second-hand weapons and equipment for the military.
The senator said buying defective military equipment would only put the lives of soldiers at risk.
“As much as possible, the government should purchase brand new military hardware if it really wants to modernize the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), which is widely regarded as one of the weakest military forces in Southeast Asia,” Escudero said.
“If we are going to pour in billions of pesos to improve the AFP, we might as well give our soldiers the best modern and sophisticated equipment we can get,” he added.
Escudero said the government should ensure that military forces are equipped with better and serviceable aircraft, naval ships, and other equipment amid concerns over China’s continuous military build-up in the disputed West Philippines Sea.
Under the proposed P3.002-trillion national budget for 2016, the Department of National Defense (DND) is third among departments which have the highest budget, next to the Department of Education and Department of Public Works and Highways.
The 2016 budget proposal of the DND, which exercises supervision and control over the AFP, is P172 billion. It is P27.5 billion higher than its current budget of P144.5 billion.
On top of this, the government has allocated P75 billion for the first five years of implementation of the 15-year Revised AFP Modernization Act of 2012.
The AFP Modernization Act aims to modernize all branches of the AFP – the Philippine Air Force, the Philippine Navy, and the Philippine Army. It was intended to last for 15 years with an initial budget of P50 billion for the first five years but the funding was stopped due to the financial crisis in Asia in 1997.
After the financial crisis, funding for the modernization program was halter and later neglected by successive administrations until the law expired in 2010.
In 2012, the law was amended and extended the modernization program to another 15 years with an initial budget of P75 billion for the first five years.
Citing the law, Escudero said modernization program shall consist of capability, material and technology development with the acquisition of new equipment and weapons system and phase out of uneconomical and obsolete major equipment and weapons system in the AFP inventory.
While he lauded the current administration for making long-needed investments in the military in recent years, the senator said more needs to be done before improvements within the AFP can be felt.
Escudero said the “much-needed and long overdue” upgrades to the country’s armed forces remain elusive even though a total of P68 billion has already been spent to modernize the AFP since 1999.
“It is for this reason why the Senate has initiated a probe on the implementation of the modernization program aimed at upgrading the AFP, including the alleged irregular acquisitions of military equipment and weapons system,” Escudero said, noting that the chopper deal exposed infirmities in the AFP's procurement process.
Reports said the DND purchased 21 refurbished Huey helicopters worth P1.2 billion, which is allegedly “older than the incumbent senior military officers.” (Sunnex)