26 November 2015
Anti aircraft gun of the AFP (photo : pdff)
Senators agree to augment Defense department budget
The proposed budget of the Department of National Defense (DND) for 2016 did not only get the nod of the Senate on Tuesday but senators also agreed to raise its appropriation to address possible security concerns of the country.
No less than the chair of the Senate committee on finance, Senator Loren Legarda, admitted that the P116.2-billion proposed DND budget next year was not enough despite the P250-million augmentation contained in her committee report.
Legarda made this admission in response to a series of questions of Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile.
“Given the security environment of the country, Madam Chair, do you think that is really a budget reflecting the concern of the government regarding the security of the country?” asked Enrile.
“Considering the multifarious threats not only domestically but internationally and in the region Mr. President, I personally believe that this is not a sufficient budget,” Legarda said.
“In fact as we know, there had been already AFP modernization program to my mind, the first has not yet been fulfilled by Congress. In fact, there’s a second modernization plan which we are funding and so I’m certain that the National Defense establishment will say that they will make do with present resources allocated by Congress,” she added.
Legarda also pointed out that the DND’s proposed budget to the Department of Budget and Management was P202.3 billion but it was slashed to P115.8 billion at the House of Representatives. Her committee approved a higher budget of P116.2 billion.
“So if it’s not enough, is the chair of the finance committee defending and presenting this budget agreeable to augmenting the budget of this department in order to secure the safety and security of the Filipino people, given the (present) security environment of the country?” Enrile asked again.
“Of course, Mr. President. In fact before your interpellation and during the weekend when we were working, I already augmented their budget based on the amendments presented and contained in my committee report today and that includes a P250 million to the Office of the Secretary DND QRF (quick response fund) which was not grated by Congress for year 2015,” Legarda said.
“Apart from the P250 million, there were other requests of the Philippine Army… however, this is still not enough Mr. President. The chair is open within the limits of the P3.002 trillion budget to augment the budget of the Defense,” she added.
Enrile then saw the need to scrutinize the entire budget and “sacrifice some in order to protect ourselves.”
Legarda agreed to Enrile’s proposal, saying that “At a proper time, I would be happy to receive amendments from my colleagues or realignments from other agencies for augmentation to the defense budget.” (Inquirer)
US raises military aid to Philippines amid sea tension with China
MANILA, Philippines - The United States has raised its military aid to the Philippines this year to $79 million, the US ambassador said on Wednesday, as tension rises in the region over China's new assertiveness in the South China Sea.
Since 2002, the United States has provided the Philippines with nearly $500 million in military assistance as well as various types of military equipment.
"We have upped our foreign military funding for the Philippines," Ambassador Philip Goldberg told ANC television, without giving a percentage. "It will be somewhere in the range of $79 million this year. It's increasing and what has been proposed is something called a maritime security initiative in the region."
China has overlapping claims with Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei in the South China Sea, through which $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year.
Reclamation work and the building of three airfields and other facilities on some of China's artificial islands in the Spratly archipelago have alarmed the region and raised concern in Washington that China is extending its military reach deep into maritime Southeast Asia.
Washington announced earlier it had allocated $50 million in aid to Manila this year. The Philippines remains one of the largest recipients of military aid in the region, focusing on building capability for the navy and air force to guard the South China Sea.
Last week, before attending a regional economic summit, US President Barack Obama boarded a Hamilton-class cutter converted into a frigate by the Philippines, a display of maritime security support for its closest ally in Southeast Asia.
Goldberg said the third Hamilton-class coast guard cutter would be arriving late next year while an old maritime research ship would be transferred by the middle of 2016.
Philippine defense and military officials said two US Marines C-130 transport planes and about eight amphibious assault vehicles were also due next year.
The Pentagon has announced it is committing $119 million this year to help develop Southeast Asian maritime capabilities and will provide $140 million next year to allies, including Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines. (InterAksyon)