MANILA, Philippines - The Air Force will acquire at least three air defense radars during the term of President Aquino to boost its capabilities in securing the country’s territory.
Air Force spokesman Lt. Col. Miguel Okol said the radars would be used to protect the country’s airspace.
“We are looking at two to three radars. These may be placed in traditional areas like La Union or Mindoro or possibly in the West Philippine Sea,” Okol told The STAR in a telephone interview yesterday.
He said they are still estimating the cost of the radars. Officials have yet to finalize the details of the acquisition plan.
“The radars will boost our capabilities for territorial defense. These will enable us to safeguard our airspace,” Okol said.
He said the equipment would also help curb illegal activities like smuggling and human trafficking.
Earlier, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said the government would implement a P40-billion military modernization project over the next five years starting in 2012.
Abad said the government would earmark P8 billion annually over the next five years for the Armed Forces’ modernization program to boost territorial defense.
The P8-billion annual funding from 2012 to 2016 is higher than the current modernization budget being allotted to the Armed Forces which stands at P5 billion.
The Air Force will get P14 billion of the P40 billion outlay.
Meanwhile, Okol said they expect a “modest yet judicious” upgrade of their aircraft with the arrival of four brand new helicopters in the last quarter of the year.
The helicopters are part of the eight Sokol choppers acquired from Polish firm Augusta PZL-Swidnik last year.
The package cost was P2.8 billion and included training of pilots, maintenance and technical support.
The helicopters will be delivered in November and would be used for combat and search and rescue operations, Okol said.
“The Air Force is making preparations for the arrival of these new aircraft and equipment by continuously honing the skills of its present roster of seasoned pilots as well as skilled maintenance personnel,” he added.
He said the acquisitions are in line with their internal security operation environment called “Horizon 1.”
“The next round of procurement of equipment will be for territorial defense or external defense,” Okol said.
Aside from radars, other equipment to be used for external defense are lead-in fighter trainer aircraft, surface attack aircraft, light lift transport, a C-130 cargo plane and attack helicopters.
Okol said their project management teams have identified the requirements and will soon submit them to the Defense department for bidding.
Other items to be acquired under Aquino’s term are strategic sealift vessels with amphibious vessels, offshore patrol vessels, naval helicopters, coast watch stations, and weather-heavy endurance cutters for the Navy.
The Army, on the other hand, would be provided with new assault rifles, armor assets, tanks, armored personnel carriers, force protection equipment like helmets, and bulletproof vests, night-fighting equipment and radios.
Malacañang described yesterday as a “minor triumph” President Aquino’s visit to China where his counterpart Hu Jintao shared his wish for a more binding Code of Conduct in the West Philippine Sea.
“The fact that we’re all saying we want to get to that point is already, I think, a minor triumph for all of the countries. In effect, we hope what this will do is it will lead to a lessening of tensions when it comes to these issues,” said Secretary Ricky Carandang of the Presidential Communications for Strategic Planning and Development.
Aside from the Philippines and China, other claimant-countries in the disputed Spratly Islands include Vietnam and Malaysia.
“We did not expect to have a resolution to this in one meeting, and it’s not a resolution that the Philippines and China can reach on their own because there are other claimant countries. So it has to be done in that framework,” Carandang said.
At present, China wants to resolve the issue bilaterally with each claimant country but the Philippines is proposing a multilateral approach.