AFP revised upgrade program still waiting PNoy's approval
Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) - January 7, 2015 - 3:33pm

MANILA, Philippines - The military’s revised modernization program is still awaiting the approval of President Aquino almost two years after it was submitted to Malacañang for review.

The program, which contains the military’s shopping list of equipment, was submitted to the President last February 2013, sources said.

If the program is not approved, the implementation of some projects might be delayed because their budgets will not be released. For now, the approval of the funding for military equipment is being done on a per project basis.

Officials confirmed on Wednesday that the program has yet to secure the chief executive’s approval. They believe that the President is carefully scrutinizing the items in the multi-billion peso modernization program.

“Officially the modernization program of the armed forces has not yet been approved by the President,” Defense Undersecretary Fernando Manalo said in a press briefing.

“We are providing them with documents. It is a P90-billion project. Of course, it requires due diligence by the approving authority to determine what is needed. It is proper for them to look at modernization projects,” he added.

Under the revised Armed Forces of the Philippines modernization law, the President, upon the recommendation of the defense and budget secretaries, shall submit the upgrade program to Congress within 60 days since the law took effect.

The executive branch has yet to submit the modernization plan to Congress as it is still with the Office of the President.

The program will contain the size and shape of the Armed Forces in terms of personnel, equipment and facilities during its various phases, the projects to be funded, priorities, schedules and estimated average cost of each project.

The modernization program submitted to Congress shall be the basis for next executive and legislative actions related to its implementation.

Funding requirements

A total of P90.86 billion is needed to implement the military’s upgrade program until 2017. The budget would cover 33 projects that constitute the first phase of the program.

Of these projects, 11 will go to the Philippine Air Force, 10 will benefit the Philippine Navy, nine will go to the Philippine Army and three will benefit the General Headquarters.

The projects to be funded in the first horizon include lead-in trainer fighter jets, frigates, helicopters, radars, drones and base upgrades.

Manalo said the government might spend more than P90 billion to implement the second horizon of the military upgrade program, which will cover the years 2018 to 2023.

The third horizon, meanwhile, will be implemented from 2024 to 2028.

Manalo declined to enumerate the equipment to be acquired under the second and third phases, saying planning sessions are still ongoing.

"It is sufficient to say that we are heavy on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief and protecting our interest in the West Philippine Sea," the defense official said.

Manalo claimed that the purchase of 12 FA-50 jets, the biggest item in the military’s shopping list, is not enough to fill the gaps in the Air Force’s capabilities.

“The 12 (jets) are not enough and way way below what is needed by the Air Force,” he said.

The 12 jets cost P18 billion and will be supplied by the Korea Aerospace Industries

Defense Assistant Secretary Patrick Velez noted that under the Navy’s sail plan, six frigates are needed to build credible deterrence.

"Where we are right now, we are in the first stages but enough to address some concerns of the Armed Forces,” Velez said.

The government has so far acquired two frigates from the United States Coast Guard.

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