28 Juni 2011
Although grounded in 2002 the F-5 was officially retired in October 2005. (photo : Timawa)
MANILA, Philippines - About P14 billion of the P40 billion allotted by Malacañang to upgrade military capability will go to the Philippine Air Force, PAF chief Lt. Gen. Oscar Rabena said over the weekend.
Under its modernization plan, the PAF will acquire a long-range aircraft to patrol the country’s territorial waters.
Rabena said the P14 billion would be used to acquire radar and aircraft that would enhance the PAF’s patrol capability.
“Those in the lineup are air defense surveillance radars, surface attack aircraft – we call it close air support aircraft – combat utility helicopters... the total is P14 billion... over a period of five years,” he said.
These acquisitions would help the PAF conduct patrols and search and rescue operations and improve its ability to perform its mandate, Rabena said.
“(The acquisitions) will give us greater domain awareness, in what is happening in our territorial waters and in our territorial air space,” he said.
Last week, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said the government is ready to implement a P40-billion military modernization project over the next five years starting 2012 to secure the country’s territory in the West Philippine Sea.
The government would allot P8 billion for the next five years for the Armed Forces modernization program to protect the country’s territory, he added.
The P8-billion annual funding for 2012 to 2016 is higher than the current modernization budget being allotted to the Armed Forces, which stands at P5 billion.
The Navy may get a huge slice of the funding, given the high costs of their equipment, said Navy chief Vice Admiral Alexander Pama.
The military is now finalizing the list of items it plans to purchase.
Meanwhile, House of Representatives appropriations committee chairman Joseph Abaya said the Armed Forces must be modernized since the military plays a key role in economic development.
Abaya is confident that the government would give attention to the military’s modernization efforts since it has taken a stance to assert its claims in the West Philippine Sea.
There was not much measure on the AFP modernization program,” he said. “Perhaps Congress and the defense department need to work closer on this.”
Speaking at the Air Power Symposium in Pasay City Friday, Abaya, a retired Navy officer, said Congress should address the gaps of the AFP modernization program, especially those related to fund allocation.
“Considering the policy implementation shortfalls, Congress would have to amend the existing law or craft a new one to effectively implement the Modernization Act,” he said.
Only P31 billion had been spent for the program after more than 16 years, he added.
The AFP Modernization Act, which took effect in 1995, has given the military the opportunity to modernize in 15 years with a total fund of P331 billion.
More than 16 years have passed since the law was enacted.
Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. said the administration is committed to reform the Armed Forces to help it carry out its mission.
“We all want the best for our country and want to help our people weather whatever storms that come their way,” he said.
“Today we have a commander-in-chief who is committed to providing you the support you need to allow you to perform your duties to the best of your abilities,” he added.
Ochoa issued the statement at the conclusion of the Air Power Symposium at the Mall of Asia last Friday.
“The reforms are part of the 16-point agenda President Aquino envisions to re-energize and transform a demoralized but dedicated military, police and civil servants to professional and motivated bureaucracies equipped with means to perform their public service missions,” he said.
Ochoa said the PAF is the most dependent on equipment among the Armed Forces services.
“It goes without saying that our pilots are some of the best in the world, whether they fly for the country or for a commercial airline,” he said.
“But no matter how great our pilots are, their capabilities can only be exploited if they have the equipment that can do them justice,” he said.
Ochoa said Aquino is aware of the need to upgrade the equipment and capabilities of the Armed Forces, noting that one of the priority bills Malacañang is pushing is seeking to extend the life of the military modernization program until 2025.
“This is to enable the military to develop and put in place capabilities that can address threats to national security,” he said.
“Part of this proposed measure authorizes the Department of National Defense and the AFP to forge contracts of sale, lease and joint venture involving real properties owned by the Armed Forces or pursue public-private partnerships in order to raise funds for the modernization program,” he said.
As chairman of the Cabinet cluster on security, justice and peace, Ochoa said he is committed to realizing and implementing the programs and reforms laid down by the President.
He cited military reforms that have been instituted by the administration, among them the comprehensive review of the financial management systems within the AFP to ensure the full implementation of the defense program and that funds earmarked for this purpose are spent judiciously.
Other reforms include the administration’s appropriation of P4.2 billion to build 20,000 houses for low-salaried members of the AFP and Philippine National Police, and the increase in the combat duty pay and incentive pay for officers and enlisted personnel. -