Chiz says AFP modernization hardly felt PDF Print E-mail
Sunday, 19 July 2015 13:49

Improvements within the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) are “hardly felt” despite the billions of pesos poured into the government’s military modernization program over the past decade, according to Sen. Chiz Escudero.

Escudero said while Department of Budget and Management reported that a total of P68 billion has already been spent for the costly AFP modernization program since 1999, the much-needed and long-overdue upgrades to the country’s armed forces remain elusive.

“Is it just me, or does anyone else notice that the AFP has shown hardly any improvement since the ambitious AFP modernization program began in the 1990s? Hindi ko naramdamang gumanda ang mga sasakyan, uniporme at kagamitan ng ating mga magigiting na sundalo,”Escudero lamented.

He said that it is for this reason why the Senate initiated a probe on the implementation of the program aimed at upgrading the AFP, including the alleged irregular acquisitions of military equipment and weapons system.

The Department of National Defense (DND), which exercises supervision and control over the AFP, came under fire for the purchase of 21 refurbished “Huey” helicopters worth P1.2 billion.

There were allegations the choppers, said to be older than the incumbent senior military officers, cannot be used and have obsolete parts, and their purchase violated certain provisions of the country’s procurement law.

The big-ticket project was also supposedly tailor-made for a particular supplier in exchange for kickbacks.

Escudero said the helicopter deal controversy exposed infirmities in the AFP procurement process, which he branded as “too supplier-driven.”

He said the AFP lacked the technical expertise to determine the most sophisticated vehicles and equipment on the market.

“The AFP has been relying more heavily on suppliers for everything they need and most of the time it is the one adjusting to the specifications of the suppliers,” he pointed out.

He said the AFP procurement procedures have to be adjusted to give the end users much bigger role during the entire process.

The AFP Modernization Act, also known as Republic Act (RA) No. 7898, was first made into law in 1995 under the leadership of then President Fidel Ramos, who himself served as AFP chief and DND secretary during the time of President Corazon Aquino.

The law was aimed to modernize all branches of the AFP such as the Philippine Air Force, the Philippine Navy and the Philippine Army. It was intended to last for 15 years with an initial budget of P50 billion for the first five years, but the funding was stopped due to the 1997 Asian financial crisis.

After the financial crisis, the funding for the AFP modernization was halted and later neglected by successive administrations until the law expired in 2010.

In 2012, RA 7898 was amended by RA 10349, or the Revised AFP Modernization Act, which extends the modernization program to another 15 years with an initial budget of P75 billion for the first five years in order to continue upgrading all military branches.

The law was aimed at building a defense system capable of addressing the assessed threats, at a time when the Philippines is locked with a sea dispute with China in the contested Spratly Islands, along with other claimant countries.

Escudero said the new law provides that the AFP modernization program shall consist of “capability, material and technology development” with the acquisition of “new equipment and weapons system” which shall be synchronized with the “phase-out of uneconomical and obsolete major equipment and weapons system in the AFP inventory.