Armed Forces of the Philippines

Senators raise concern over ‘low remittances’ from BCDA for military modernization

JC Gotinga

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Senators raise concern over ‘low remittances’ from BCDA for military modernization

Navy's brand new frigate Jose Rizal departs for RIMPAC exercise in Hawaii. Photo from the Philippine Navy

Philippine Navy

The Bases Conversion and Development Authority owes the military P13.2 billion in expected remittances for 2020, says Senator Panfilo Lacson

Two senators flagged the “low amount” the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) has so far remitted to the military, and urged Armed Forces chief General Gilbert Gapay to collect delayed remittances to aid the military’s modernization program.

“It is unacceptable that the BCDA is able to remit what is at best, only one-tenth of the actual funds needed by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to upgrade our military capabilities,” Senator Risa Hontiveros said in a statement on Thursday, September 3.

Because of this, Hontiveros said the BCDA must immediately “increase and speed up” its remittance of dividends to benefit the AFP, starting with some P13.2 billion in pending remittances for fiscal year 2020.

Of more than P20 billion the BCDA is expected to remit to the AFP this year, only P6.8 billion has so far been released, Senator Panfilo Lacson said during Gapay’s confirmation hearing with the Commission on Appointments on Wednesday, September 2.

Singilin ‘nyo ‘yon (Collect that),” Lacson told Gapay, referring to the BCDA’s P13.2-billion balance.

Gapay said the military has P300 billion worth of unfunded projects including current phases of its modernization program.

“We expect several billions more as a result of the use and the sale of military reservations in the past. And right now, those that are under long term lease, we expect some revenues also there, but there’s still a large amount unremitted by the BCDA,” Gapay said at the hearing.

The general estimated that based on the income-generating real estate assets of the AFP, the BCDA would generate P10 billion to P15 billion more for the military over the next 5 years.

Kaunti lang ito (This isn’t much),” Lacson said, reacting to Gapay’s estimate.

Hontiveros said it was “surprising and discouraging” that the military makes do with such small amounts to build up its capabilities. This shortage in funds “jeopardizes the country’s ability to counter threats and protect its territory,” she added

Hontiveros said remittances from the BCDA were “severely inadequate.”

Hindi dapat madiskaril ang modernisasyon ng ating sandatahang lakas dahil lang sa kawalan at kabagalan ng pondo (The modernization of our Armed Forces must not be sidetracked because of lacking or delayed funds),” Hontiveros said.

She noted the deadly August 24 twin bombings in Jolo, Sulu, and the China’s constant incursions in the West Philippine Sea that “highlight the need to vastly improve on the AFP’s capability” to address security threats.

The military is currently on Horizon 2 of the AFP Modernization Program. This second phase, from 2018 to 2023, involves P300 billion worth of asset acquisitions and trainings to build a credible defense posture.

The BCDA was established in the early 1990s to help fund the AFP by selling and developing former military bases and reservations for commercial use. According to its website, the BCDA has contributed a total of P46.55 billion to the AFP’s modernization program from May 1993 to June 2020.

The agency has also disposed of a total of P107.68 billion worth of assets, and remitted P63.14 billion to the National Treasury, it said on its website. Among its major projects were the economic districts Bonifacio Global City in Taguig City, Newport City in Pasay City, and New Clark City in Tarlac.

The BCDA is one of several funding sources for the military, besides its yearly allocation from the national budget.

Citing the BCDA’s 2018 financial report, Hontiveros said the agency has been allocating 50% to 72.5% of its net proceeds from the disposition of government assets primarily to the AFP and other government agencies.

Rappler reached out to BCDA president and CEO Vince Dizon and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana for comment. They have yet to respond to the queries as of this posting. –

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JC Gotinga

JC Gotinga often reports about the West Philippine Sea, the communist insurgency, and terrorism as he covers national defense and security for Rappler. He enjoys telling stories about his hometown, Pasig City. JC has worked with Al Jazeera, CNN Philippines, News5, and CBN Asia.