Palace asked: Release P10B for fighter jets

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of National Defense has requested Malacañang to release some P10 billion to comply with the demand of Korean Aerospace Industry (KAI) for a 52% downpayment for the 12 fighter jets the Philippines is acquiring. 

"It will push through. We sent it to the Office of the President with our recommendation.... We recommended approval of the downpayment and progress billing," said Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin.

As territorial disputes intensify in the region, the FA-50 is meant to build the fighter capability of the Air Force after it retired the last of its US-designed F-5 fighters in 2005.

The payment terms earlier put the government-to-contract in limbo after the South Korean company demanded the huge downpayment for the P18.9 billion contract. Under the law, the defense department can only pay a maximum of 15% downpayment. (READ: 'Major issues' with South Korea delay PH fighter jets)

It is now up to Malacañang to approve the DND recommendation. If approved, delivery is expected in June 2015.

The purchase of the 12 fighter jets is part of the revised Armed Forces of the Philippines modernization program, which got an initial funding of P75 billion from President Benigno Aquino III. The fund is focused on acquiring assets to improve the military's capability to defend the country's maritime territory.

The defense department also asked KAI to agree to deliver spare parts within 60 days. KAI ealier wanted 180 days. This will be applicable during the warranty period, which is usually a period of 2 years.

Modernization plans

Aside from fighter jets, the Armed Forces is also acquiring 2 new frigates also worth P19 billion. These are the 2 major items to be acquired using the fresh funds.

BRP Gregorio Del Pilar and BRP Ramon Alcararaz are currenlty the Navy's most capable warships. They were recently acquired from the US Coast Guard to patrol the West Philippine Sea. (READ and WATCH: Maiden voyage of PH's most capable warship)

Some of the military's assets were put on display in Camp Aguinaldo during AFP's 78th anniversary celebrations. Among them were 3 brand new naval helicopters that earlier this month. These naval choppers will be deployed in tandem with the warships to expand the navy's monitoring capabilities.

The 2 brand new frigates will be more capable than Alcaraz and Del Pilar. It will be capable of submarine warfare and will be able to carry missiles. The DND has opened the bid for the new frigates. 

The Armed Forces is also improving its naval detachment in Puerto Princesa, Palawan, that is facing the disputed Spratly Islands. (READ: PH to upgrade naval detachment facing Spratlys)

A shore-based missile with an allocation of P6.5 billion is also in the pipeline. –