AFP gets P75-B more for upgrade
MANILA, Philippines - On top of the P28 billion President Benigno Aquino III released 3 years ago, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) will get P75 billion more for the purchase of fighter aircraft, transport aircraft, helicopters, naval vessels and other equipment.
The defense allocation is part of Aquino's efforts to build a "minimum credible defense posture, to serve as deterrent to any aggressive action that may be taken against the Philippines," Philippine Ambassador to the US, Jose Cuisia Jr, told the American Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday, April 10.
A portion of the initial defense budget was used to upgrade the BRP Gregorio Del Pilar and the BRP Ramon Alcaraz, high-endurance cutters from the United States Coast Guard, the Philippine ambassador to Washington said.
The Philippines and its neighboring countries are engaged in disputes with China over the mineral-rich South China Sea (West Philippine Sea).
The Aquino government seeks to "play a bigger role in ensuring regional stability by beefing up its defense capabilities," according to Cuisia.
Budget Secretary Butch Abad previously said that the "budget of DND by itself does not speak for the strengthening of the monitoring and security in the West Philippine Sea," even as he noted that the defense sector has been getting unprecedented budgetary allocations.
Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, a former defense minister, also said the military budget is insufficient given the Philippines' security issues. He recommended the allocation of the biggest share of the national budget to defense expenditure instead of education.
"When we have a security problem and we have to spend money far beyond the needs of education because we want to protect the country and her people, are we going to rapidly amend the Constitution under that limitation? These things are serious and very dangerous provisions that we have to address," Enrile argued in an earlier interview.
The Philippine Constitution mandated the government to give education the biggest budgetary share.
Defense expenditure under the Aquino government is almost 3 times bigger than the combined amount spent by the Ramos, Estrada and Arroyo administrations, noted Cuisia.
"During the past 15 years, only a total of P33 billion was spent by the 3 previous administrations compared to the P28 billion released since 2010 and the additional P75 billion that will be spent in the next 4 years," he said.
This is no match however to the defense spending of other Asian countries like China, India, South Korea and Taiwan, whose budgets doubled over the past 10 years, according to the Washington-based think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies.
The Philippines turns to long-time ally US to ask for help in modernizing and building up its weak defense.
"We work closely with the United States, our country’s only treaty ally, on mechanisms that will ensure that our security arrangements remain relevant and mutually beneficial," Cuisia said.
Cuisia said he is involved in efforts that directly affect American businesss interests in the Philippines "in view of the security challenges in our region and the US rebalancing to Asia, particularly the need to ensure freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, where an estimated $1.3 trillion in US trade flows through annually." - With report from Voltaire Tupaz/Rappler.com