25 August 2011

AFP urged to maximize golf courses to augment budget

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) - Because of perennial budget constraints, senators are urging the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to become more resourceful and creative in utilizing their current assets to augment their modernization fund. 

In the Senate Finance Committee hearing this morning, lawmakers zeroed in on the 5 golf courses controlled and managed by the AFP in Metro Manila, which they said were underutilized.

Committee Chairman Senator Franklin Drilon took as an example the 33-hectare Veterans Golf Course in Quezon City, currently valued at P11.5 billion, but which only makes an annual profit of P1.6 million.

According to Drilon, the golf courses of AFP in Metro Manila have an estimated value of at least P45 billion.

"I don't think we need these golf courses, what we need is to modernize our Armed Forces. We are asking the (Department of National Defense) to look into these assets....as a source of revenue for the modernization of our Armed Forces," Drilon said.

The senators said that while the exact mechanism of income-generation will have to be studied "very closely,” the AFP can already enter into long-term leases with the private sector to boost revenues from these assets.

Drilon said the equipment and manpower of the AFP are in a "very sorry state," noting the Philippines is lagging behind the military capability of its Southeast Asian neighbors.

Another source of concern for the Finance Committee is the ballooning portion of AFP funds earmarked for the pension of retired military personnel.

Of the P106.9 billion budget of the Armed Forces this year, P34.3 billion or 32% will be devoted to veterans and pensioners.

Only P5.5 billion or 5% is allocated for its capital outlay, which will be largely used by the AFP for its modernization.

By 2014, more funds will be allocated for pensions as opposed to the salary of active personnel, he said. Drilon attributed this to the pending retirement of a significant number of soldiers and officers who were enlisted during the martial law years.

"We can never modernize our Armed Forces at the rate we are going," he said. "We have to take a serious look into this problem."

Drilon also instructed the AFP to look into "doubtful" records of its retirees, including 23,580 alleged World War 2 veterans aged between 81 to 101 years old.

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