Duterte to continue AFP modernization program

Jaime Laude - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has assured the people that the Duterte administration would pursue the 15-year modernization program of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

Lorenzana, a retired Army major general, said the Department of National Defense (DND) would likewise prioritize the resolution of internal security problems by acquiring additional military equipment to boost military capabilities in addressing internal conflicts.

“Territorial defense is one of the priorities of the Duterte administration. It is very important as we need to protect our territories against encroachment by other parties,” Lorenzana told reporters last Friday during the welcome ceremonies for the new DND chief at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City.

Originally launched during the Arroyo regime, the AFP modernization program hit a snag following a decision by the political and military leaders then to downgrade the country’s territorial defense in order for the AFP to focus more on dealing with threats to internal security.

During former president Benigno Aquino III’s term, the AFP modernization program was revived with the rebuilding of the country’s external defense capability in the wake of China’s aggressive activities in disputed areas in the West Philippine Sea and South China Sea.

The AFP had acquired two Hamilton-class cutters and two strategic sealift vessels (SSVs), six multipurpose assault craft, 114 armored personnel carriers, three brand-new C-295 medium lift aircraft, two C-130 transport planes, a squadron of South Korean-made FA-50 light-interim supersonic fighter aircraft, five utility as well as attack version of the AgustaWestland AW-109 helicopters, five landing craft heavies and three multipurpose attack craft.

One of the SSVs, BRP Tarlac, has been delivered while the other is expected to be delivered next year; two units of FA-50s are currently being used to train Filipino fighter pilots while awaiting delivery of the remaining 10 supersonic fighter aircraft.

“The 15-year modernization program of the AFP will continue as scheduled,” said Lorenzana, who replaced Voltaire Gazmin.

Earlier, President Duterte said that his government would first focus on stamping out the kidnap-for-ransom operations of the Abu Sayyaf bandits in Mindanao and the military needs modern helicopters and fast-attack craft to accomplish the mission.

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