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Military to buy 2 anti-submarine choppers

MANILA, Philippines - The Department of National Defense (DND) is planning to acquire two brand new naval helicopters with anti-submarine capabilities to enhance the capabilities of the military.

DND Undersecretary Fernando Manalo said the department is now awaiting the issuance of an acquisition defense memorandum (ADM), which would start the procurement and would signal the project’s implementation.

Manalo said the ADM, which is a key component in the procurement process, would be issued by DND Secretary Voltaire Gazmin.

“(This acquisition is) part of our modernization program,” Manalo said, adding that each helicopter costs P2.5 billion.

The two helicopters are expected to be placed on the two Maestrale-class missile-firing warships to be acquired from Italy. There is no information yet as to where the helicopters would be procured.

Manalo said the implementation of the project hinges on the enactment of a measure seeking to revive the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Modernization Program.

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“If it (law) gets approved, the P75 billion (funding) for the first five years would be part of it,” the defense official said.

The old AFP Modernization Act, which took effect on February 23, 1995, has given the military the opportunity to modernize in 15 years with a total fund of P331 billion.

The implementation of the law, however, has been stalled due to lack of funds. The law lapsed in 2010 without achieving its purpose of modernizing the military.

Last September, the legislature ratified a bill seeking to revive the military’s modernization program and to allot P75 billion for the first five years of its implementation.

The new modernization bill only needs the signature of President Aquino before it can be enacted into law.

Among the items that the DND wants to acquire once the bill is signed into law are communication equipment, lead-in fighter trainer jets, closed air support aircraft, long range patrol aircraft, radar systems and engineering equipment.

The DND is also resorting to government-to-government transactions to fast-track the procurement of key military equipment.

The Aquino administration has promised to equip the military to enable it to perform its mission.

The Army would be given new assault rifles, armor assets, tanks, armored personnel carriers, force protection equipment like helmets, and bulletproof vests, night-fighting equipment and radios.

On the other hand, the government would buy surface attack aircraft, air defense radars, long-range patrol aircraft and closed air support aircraft for the Air Force.

For the Navy, the government seeks to acquire strategic sea-lift vessels with amphibious vessels, off-shore patrol vessels, naval helicopters, coast watch stations and weather-heavy endurance cutters.

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