New buzz words, targets: P600B for AFP modernization

Carmela Fonbuena

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New buzz words, targets: P600B for AFP modernization
Defense officials want everyone to drop the buzz phrase 'minimum credible deterrence' and instead use 'credible deterrence' as the motivation for the AFP's modernization

MANILA, Philippines –  There are new buzz words and new targets that observers of the modernization efforts of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) need to know.

There’s first horizon and second horizon – your first two buzz words – as defense officials are now discussing the “second horizon” of AFP modernization as the “first horizon” makes significant advances. 

The first horizon refers to the P90.86 billion allocation provided by the Aquino administration under the Revised AFP Modernization law seeking to modernize the military in the wake of China’s aggression in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea). 

It is not much compared to the defense budgets of neighboring countries but it has been the most aggressive modernization by one of Asia’s weakest militaries. 

The first horizon, which is set to be completed by 2017, includes the 12 fighter jets – two of which are arriving at the end of the year – and the long-delayed two frigates that the Department of National Defense (DND) is hoping to bid out in the first quarter. These are the two big-ticket items in a list of 91 projects funded by the P90-billion modernization fund. 

As most of these items await deliveries, defense officials want everyone to drop the buzz phrase “minimum credible deterrence” as the motivation for the modernization. The goal now is “credible deterrence” because how does one measure “minimum” anyway, asked one official.  

Note to Aquino successor

Defense officials are now in the thick of meetings to identify priorities under the “second horizon” of modernization slated between 2018 and 2023.  

DND Undersecretary for Finance, Munitions and Materiel Fernando Manalo said it’s premature to enumerate the items but it will focus on areas of concern.

“The second horizon will probably be heavy on HADR (Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Response) and the West Philippine Sea and not so much on the ISO (International Security Operations) because we are expecting that ISO will not be so intense in the next 5 years and what we have already acquired should be sufficient to address ISO,” said Manalo. 

This should mean additional frigates for the Philippine Navy to complete its minimum requirement of 6 frigates to effectively patrol the country’s waters and the possible acquisition of multi-role fighters, which is more sophisticated than the FA-50 lead-in fighter trainers that the PAF are getting.  

Based on Manalo’s estimates, the second horizon will need a budget that is “much higher than [the] P90 billion” allocated for the first horizon. It is a commitment that the security sector will need to get from the successor of President Benigno Aquino III who is stepping down in 2016. 

Manalo said the J5 (Office of the AFP deputy chief of staff for plans) and the Office of the assistant secretary for plans and programs are finalizing the list for the second horizon. 

“I think within the year, the Department of National Defense will be able to submit the proposed modernization for the second horizon,” Manalo added.

Third horizon to complete the P600-B requirement

There is a “third horizon” in the pipeline – covering the period 2024-2028 – in the hope that the second horizon will not meet the fate of the original AFP Modernization law – the precursor of the Revised AFP Modernization law – that promised P330 billion in modernization funds but went pfft. 

Manalo could not give estimates on the cost of the third horizon but all 3 horizons, he said, should “not less than twice” the original funding provided by the original law, meaning, P660 billion. –

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