Monday, June 20, 2011

AFP readies P40-B shopping list

By Alexis Romero with Jess Diaz, Tuesday, June 21, 2011

MANILA, Philippines - The military is preparing its shopping list for a P40-billion equipment upgrading program over the next five years, with the Philippine Navy expected to receive a huge chunk of the funds because of high equipment cost.

Brig. Gen. Roy Deveraturda, chief of the Armed Forces Modernization Program Management Office, said in an interview yesterday that the military has identified priority projects for the next five years, which are awaiting approval. He said that in procuring new equipment, it would be considered that the military’s focus is still internal security operations.

Navy chief Vice Admiral Alexander Pama said they are still discussing the proper allocation of funds for each major service but confirmed that the Navy will get a huge share of the funds,

“We cannot deny that some of our equipment are old. We need them to fulfill our mandate as provided by the constitution,” Pama said in an interview with radio station dzRH.

Out of the 53 patrol ships in the Navy’s inventory, only 26 are operational. These patrol ships are aged at an average of 36.4 years old. The larger vessels— like the Mine Sweeper Frigates and patrol craft escorts— are 66 and 67 years old respectively.

Only three of the seven Navy transport vessels—all 15 years old— are operational. The non-operational vessels are 64 years old.

Only four of the 10 Navy auxiliary ships are operational while only 23 of the 32 small crafts—all of which are 21.3 years old— are operational.

On Sunday, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said the government is prepared to implement a P40-billion military modernization project over the next five years starting in 2012 to secure the country’s territory in the West Philippine Sea.

He said the government plans to allot P8 billion annually for the next five years for the modernization program to protect the country’s territorial integrity. The P8 billion annual funding for 2012 to 2016 is higher than the current modernization outlay of P5 billion.

Deveraturda said the higher modernization budget would fasttrack their capability upgrade program.

“It would be a big help (to our modernization efforts). We can assure you that these funds would be used properly. Our records are open and anyone can participate in the procurement process,” he said.

AFP chief Gen Eduardo Oban said the military’s baseline capability should be improved because of the developments in the West Philippine Sea.

The AFP Modernization Act, which took effect in 1995, has mandated the military to modernize its assets in 15 years with a total fund of P331 billion. 16 years later, the military is still suffering from lack of equipment and ageing assets. Of the P331 billion mandated by the law for expenditure, only about P33 billion have been spent. Earlier, President Aquino said more than P11 billion had been allotted for the purchase of modern equipment for the military this year.

\The funding for these assets would come from the P8 billion proceeds from the Malampaya natural gas project in Palawan while P3 billion would come from the modernization outlay.

The AFP expects the implementation of 13 military capability upgrade projects worth more than P5 billion this year.

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