CP-140A : Aurora Canadian patrol aircraft (photo : YYJ. Collins)
MANILA, Philippines - The Department of National Defense is in talks with four foreign governments on the possible purchase of military equipment, even as some sectors have raised concerns about possible “midnight deals” being hatched by the outgoing Arroyo administration.“I do not want this business of suspecting the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) each time it makes a major procurement. I said we will not deal with private contractors. The modernization that we will try to do will be between governments,” Defense Secretary Norberto Gonzales told reporters over the weekend.
Gonzales revealed that Canada, Italy, Israel and South Korea have already laid down their respective offers.
“The Canadians are offering long-range patrol aircraft and medium-lift capability. The Italians are doing the same. Israel is looking at the possibility of giving us combat helicopters and communication systems. The Koreans are telling me they are prepared to give us a credit line of up to $2 billion,” he said.
Gonzales said he is also awaiting a proposal from the French government.
The defense chief said they would still review the offers and expressed hope that the delivery of the equipment would be done within the next two years.
Critics fear that the last-minute projects of the Arroyo administration would be fraught with massive corruption and irregularities.
Last week, Liberal Party presidential bet Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III warned against the government’s “midnight deals” and called on foreign suppliers not to transact with the outgoing administration.
He also vowed to strictly scrutinize the Arroyo administration’s latest transactions.
“If such midnight deals are concluded just the same, they must all be subjected to the strictest scrutiny and immediately rescinded whenever warranted,” Aquino said.
“Every peso stolen from the budget of our security organizations represents a drop of blood of our soldiers, airmen, sailors and police officers who risk their lives in the service of our nation,” he added.
Gonzales admitted that the government is into an “11th hour” preparation to modernize the AFP, but claimed that nothing is illegal with it.
“Yes, we are rushing what we can still do under the AFP modernization program in our very limited time left,” he said. “Aren’t we, Filipinos, known to be good in the last two minutes?”
The DND chief also said the acquisition of new military equipment would enhance the country’s defense capabilities and restore national pride.
The government is planning to buy an armor system for the Army, multi-role vessels for the Navy and long-range patrol aircraft, medium lift aircraft and attack helicopters for the Air Force in the next two to three years.
Malacañang has issued an “obligation authority” to the DND to allow it to enter into multi-year contracts. The scheme is in the 2010 national budget signed into law by President Arroyo last February.
Without such authority, the DND can only spend up to P5 billion per year from the modernization funds.