|The Philippine Army|
President Benigno Aquino III has ordered the release of P10 billion for the military’s modernization program, including P1.6 billion for new Air Force planes which will all be purchased by the end of the year.
But deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte made it clear Sunday that the release of the P10 billion for the Armed Forces of the Philippines modernization fund had nothing to do with the government’s ongoing skirmish with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
“This (release of the P10 billion) was already in the works. It just so happened that we are releasing this money just now,” Valte told state radio dzRB when asked whether the release was connected to last week’s bloody clash between government and MILF troops in Al Barka town in Basilan that left 19 soldiers dead.
Valte said the new military equipment to be purchased was essentially for the modernization of the AFP. “It will help them do their work wherever that is.”
She said Budget Secretary Florencio Abad was now preparing the special allotment release orders for the P10 billion, adding that the money will be sourced from the appropriations of the 2010 and 2011 national budget at P5 billion each.
In a phone interview, Abad said the military had just recently finalized its shopping list because officials had to reassess it “because of recent tension in the region and concerns for territorial integrity.”
“They had to balance internal security concerns with regional territorial concerns,” Abad told the Inquirer.
Abad said he expected the military to complete the new purchase by the end of the year.
The P10 billion will now bring to P15.3 billion the total amount released for the AFP modernization program since President Aquino took office last year. In a statement, Abad said the amount would not only fund the purchase of new equipment but also provide training to soldiers.
From the P5-billion fund for the 2010 appropriations, Abad said the military planned to equip the Philippine Army with 14 armored personnel carriers, 272 20-man pack radios and 3,480 force protection, all amounting to P1.4 billion. The Philippine Navy will procure a P2-billion strategic sealift vessel while the Philippine Air Force will acquire one special mission aircraft and two light lift aircraft amounting to P1.6 billion.
Abad said the 2011 budget would be used by the military to purchase vehicles for civil military operations, health service and disaster response activities. These include 32 five-ton dump trucks and 55 special purpose vehicles for the Army; two search and rescue helicopters, 30 special purpose vehicles and 15 amphibian vehicles for the Navy.
Also included on the shopping list using the 2011 budget were weapons and communication equipment, according to Abad.
The Army will get 1,376 handheld radios, 210 AV configuration radios and 100 base radios as well as 150 mortars while the Air Force will get 78 units of audio-video equipment, 160 portable radio receivers, 100 sniper rifle systems and 2,000 standard weapon systems.