MANILA — On Monday, Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri paid an official visit to the Philippine Army for an information briefing regarding the army’s modernization plans, particularly as it transitions from mainly addressing internal threats to addressing territorial defense, under the Pagkakaisa 2023-2028 plan of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
This visit comes at the heels of Zubiri’s visit to the Philippine Navy in early May, for the christening of two new patrol gunboats and the blessing of their newly upgraded Naval Shipbuilding Yard.
In the briefing, the Army presented its ongoing and future plans, including engaging in forty-four bilateral and multilateral trainings, hosting the ASEAN Armies Rifle Meet, and pursuing twenty-nine projects for Horizon III of the AFP Modernization Program.
The Army also presented its concept for the implementation of the proposed Mandatory Reserve Officers Training Corps Act, under which they are expecting 1.9 million students to enroll, and for which the Army needs 3.7 billion for the implementation.
For his part, Zubiri expressed his full support for the AFP Modernization Program.
“Being from Mindanao, I have seen firsthand how the Army has taken great leaps to keep our communities safe, and how the Army has made way for rebel returnees to reintegrate themselves as valuable contributors to our communities,” he said. “And I know that with the proper equipment and technology, you would be able to serve our country even better.”
He gave his full support for the Mandatory ROTC Act as well, having been a product of the program in his college days.
He also discussed the pending army-related measures in the Senate, foremost of which is the National Defense Act, which is a priority measure of the Marcos administration, and the bill rationalizing the disability pension of veterans, which has been approved on third reading in the Senate. This is going to increase the disability pension for military veterans, in accordance with their disability rate.
“With this bill, we hope to more sufficiently support our veterans who have so selflessly put themselves in harm’s way, and incurred lasting injuries and illnesses in the line of duty,” Zubiri explained.
He also filed the Philippine Defense Industry Development Act (PDIDA), to support the AFP in building a credible defense posture.
“It is vital that we not only procure equipment and technologies from outside the country, but also develop our own capacity to produce the equipment that we need for our forces,” he said.
“With the PDIDA, we can work on our own needs, on our own time, and we will not have to rely on our foreign partners to supply us with the equipment that we need. On top of that, with our own defense industry, we will be able to generate employment opportunities for our countrymen as well.”
On the issue of proposed reforms to the Military Uniformed Personnel Pension, Zubiri emphasized that he is set on finding a healthy balance that will make for a more sustainable pension model that will also be “as painless as possible” for the armed forces.
Beyond crafting and pushing for legislative measures that will strengthen the AFP, Zubiri also assured the Army that the Senate is prepared to support them in their budgetary needs for the coming year.
“Last week, I was in a meeting with Budget Secretary Mina Pangandaman, and I told her how crucial it is that we not underbudget for the AFP in the 2024 National Expenditure Program,” he said.
“I want to see our Armed Forces be on equal footing with the technology and equipment of our neighboring countries. For that to happen, we need better ships, new jets, missile systems, and armaments, among other things. This will cost a lot, but that’s the cost of protecting the country.”
Welcoming Zubiri at the briefing were Army Commander General LtGen Romeo Brawner, MGen Steve Crespillo, MGen Potenciano Camba, MGen Rommel Tello, BGen Moises Nayve, BGen Benjamin Hao, BGen Alejandro Papa, and other officers and personnel of the Army.