Philippine President Benigno Aquino signed Republic Act No. 10349 into law on 11 December measures extending the modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) for a further 15 years and the allocation of ₱75 billion ($1.8 billion USD) for defense procurement over the next five years.
The legislation, Republic Act (RA) No. 10349, also formally establishes processes that are geared to accelerate the AFP's acquisition of materiel by enhancing the efficiency and accountability of military procurement practices.
A presidential statement made reference to the rationale behind the move to bolster military capability, and the AFP's transition in recent years from a force focused on tackling internal threats - particularly insurgency - to one increasingly absorbed by a perceived requirement to secure off-shore territory.
The statement said the passing of the revised AFP Modernization Act will "further upgrade the AFP's defense capabilities for the country's protection and security". It added that the funding provided by the act will "boost the AFP's Capability Upgrade Program [CUP] as it shifts from internal to external defense capability".
The revised legislation also enables the military modernization effort to be boosted further by the proceeds of leasing military-owned land not considered vital to the Department of National Defense.
But even before the law is implemented, the Commission on Audit, in its 2011 annual report, disclosed that a total of ₱72.5 million worth of military combat clothing procured by the Philippine Air Force has remained undelivered by the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management
The undelivered items include combat and rubber shoes, flight suits, and mattresses. ₱21.4 million worth of these items remain undelivered since 2008.The COA explained that ₱21.4 million worth of combat clothing was undelivered in 2010, while ₱51.1 million worth was undelivered in the following year.
Mr. Aquino, meanwhile, said the new law will help boost the Armed Forced of the Philippines' capability upgrade program.
"This ensures that our Armed Forces will be able to keep up with the modern times. This will boost the AFP's capability upgrade program as it shifts from internal to external defense capability," Mr. Aquino said.
"Security threats have changed: as the number of rebels goes down, we have to focus more on terrorist threats. We are facing new challenges such as territorial disputes with bigger countries in the region," the President added.
The Philippines has been engaged in heightened tensions with China the entire year over conflicting claims in the South China Sea.
"This new law ushers in a more modern, more reliable and stronger AFP. Our military is marching forward to protect our people and fight threats to our sovereignty," Mr. Aquino said.
Under the new measure, the AFP modernization program will have a ₱75 billion budget for the first five years.
The measure exempts from the requirement of public bidding certain major defense purchases such as aircraft, vessels, tanks, armored vehicles, communications equipment and high powered firearms.
The new law also grants additional funding sources from public-private partnerships entered into by the defense department of the AFP.
It also allows multi-year contracts and exempts from value added tax and customs duties the sale of weapons, equipment, and ammunition to the AFP.
AFP planners had identified 39 projects to be covered by the revised modernization program.
The Air Force will acquire 21 additional UH-1B multipurpose helicopters to replace the Vietnam War-vintage UH-1H (Huey) helicopters and 10 attack helicopters in the next two years.
The modernization program would also include the purchase of three medium-lift aircraft to complement the Air Force's C-130 Hercules cargo planes.
Senator Antonio Trillanes IV expressed his gratitude to the President for signing the new law, saying the modernization law would boost the military's capability to deal with national security threats.
Trillanes is the co-principal author of the new AFP Modernization Law in the Senate, along with Senator Panfilo Lacson.
"The AFP is the protector of the people of the State. It is hoped that through this law, the AFP will be able to fulfill its mandate," Trillanes said. (http://is.gd/cKrir1)
Manila Standard Today