BRP Jose Rizal (File photo)
MANILA – The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Modernization Program is getting an extra PHP8 billion in 2021 to restore the bulk of the program funds earlier “repurposed” for the fight against coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19), Deputy Speaker and Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel said on Sunday.
“Considering the foreign threats we are facing in the West Philippine Sea, we are assuring the AFP of sustained funding support for its modernization projects, despite the coronavirus pandemic,” Pimentel said.
In the proposed PHP4.5-trillion national budget for 2021, Pimentel said the AFP modernization program is getting PHP33 billion in fresh funding, or PHP8 billion higher than the usual PHP25-billion annual allocation.
The AFP modernization program was earmarked PHP25 billion this year, but Department of National Defense (DND) earlier returned PHP9.4 billion in “unobligated” program funds to the National Treasury to help the government’s fight against Covid-19.
Unobligated funds are appropriations that remain uncommitted by contract.
Pimentel is a staunch backer of the Visiting Forces Agreement between the Philippines and the United States. The accord is in support of the Mutual Defense Treaty between the two countries.
Pimentel also has bill seeking to reinforce the military by giving the AFP chief of staff a more stable 36-month tour of duty.
The military has acquired multiple new weapons systems and capabilities pursuant to the Revised 15-year AFP Modernization Program established by law in 2013.
The latest acquisitions include two guided-missile warships worth a combined PHP16 billion for the Philippine Navy.
The frigates BRP Jose Rizal and BRP Antonio Luna are capable of launching missiles against hostile surface warships and aircraft as well as torpedoes against underwater targets.
Built by South Korea’s Hyundai Heavy Industries Co. Ltd., the BRP Jose Rizal was put into service in July, while the BRP Antonio Luna is due for delivery this month.
The Navy also plans to acquire two heavier warships – missile-armed corvettes – worth a total of PHP30 billion.
Last month, the DND also signed the contract for the Philippine Air Force’s acquisition of a PHP5.5-billion Air Surveillance Radar System from Japan’s Mitsubishi Electric Corp.