By Ina Andolong
Soon enough, the country would have defense equipment it could be proud of.
President Benigno Aquino III said this on Tuesday at the ceremonial signing of the Revised Armed Forces of the Philippines Modernization Act, which will extend until 2025 the AFP Modernization Act that expired last year.
Among those present at the Rizal Hall of Malacañan Palace, where the signing took place, were House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr.; Senators Panfilo Lacson, Antonio Trillanes IV, Edgardo Angara; Parañaque Rep. Roilo Golez; Executive Secretary Paquito N. Ochoa Jr.; Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin; and General Jesse Dellosa, AFP chief of staff.
"Layon nitong tiyakin na habang umuusad tayo sa mas modernong panahon, hindi napag-iiwanan sa uri ng gamit at armas, at nakakasabay sa antas ng kasanayan ang ating Sandatahang Lakas. Subalit makalipas ang labimpitong taon, hindi maikakaila ang malawak na agwat sa pagitan ng mga antigo at papugak-pugak na kagamitan ng ating kasundaluhan, at sa mga mas makabago't high-tech na armas ng ibang mga nasyon [This aims to ensure that, as we go through modern times, the Armed Forces will not be left behind the quality of its equipment and arms and that it can keep up with training standards. But after 17 years, it cannot be denied that the gap has widened between the antiquated and malfunctioning equipment of our troops and the new high-tech arms of other nations]" President Aquino said.
The new law gives the Department of National Defense a P75-billion budget for the purchase of new equipment in the next five years.
President Aquino said these includes new planes and choppers for the Air Force, ships for the Navy, and faster tanks for the Army.
The new law also paved the way for the acquisition of new C130 planes, radio equipment, rifles, mortars, and other hardware as announced by the President in his last State of the Nation Address.
President Aquino cited the law's timely enactment, saying: "Habang bumababa ang bilang ng mga umaanib sa mga grupong komunista, at matapos tayo makapagpanday ng kasunduang pangkapayapaan sa MILF, may iba pa ring mga pagsubok na kailangan nating paghandaan, gaya na lamang ng usaping teritoryal na kinakasangkutan rin ng ibang mas malalaking bansa sa rehiyon. Kaya naman, napapanahon at makabuluhan ang paglalagda natin ng New AFP Modernization Act [Though the numbers of those joining communist groups are going down, and after we have forged an agreement with the MILF, there are still other trials that we have to go through, such as territorial issues that involve other, bigger country in the regions. That is why the signing of this New AFP Modernization Act is timely and meaningful]."
The law requires all purchases to be synchronized with the phaseout of all costly and obsolete major equipment and weapons in the AFP inventory.
President Aquino assured the public that funds under the modernization program would go where they should.
The law institutionalizes a mechanism called the Defense System of Management intended to closely monitor the acquisition of equipment and negate any possible partiality in the procurement process.
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Pia Hontiveros, Chief Correspondent and anchor of Solar Network News and News.Ph, presents the Solar News and Current Affairs year-ender special: On the Cusp of Change. A deafening silence, not out of a loss for words but a grief that cannot be spoken, for thousands lost to a super typhoon ... A muted pain from a powerful tremor that violently shook the heart of the nation ... An unspeakable anger over pork barrel that fueled a political maelstrom ... These and other stories from the extraordinary challenging year that was.