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MANILA, Philippines - The government will spend P40 billion over the next five years to upgrade the capability of the Armed Forces of the Philippines to protect maritime resources and the country’s territorial integrity, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said Sunday.
Abad said starting next year, the government will seek an P8-billion annual budget for the AFP modernization program.
“We’ll be coming up with a list of priority acquisitions, and this has to be driven by strategy. It’s the baseline capability that the Armed Forces really needs to improve on,” AFP chief of staff General Eduardo Oban said in an interview in Calamba City during the unveiling of the tallest monument to Jose Rizal to mark the national hero’s 150th birthday.
Since 2005, Congress has allotted an annual budget of only P5 billion for the military’s modernization program.
In a separate interview, AFP Modernization Program Management Office head Brigadier General Roy Deveraturda said the upgrading the military should not be viewed as preparation for possible conflict with any country over the disputed Spratly Islands in the West Philippine Sea.
“We just want to provide sovereign presence in our territories,” Deveraturda said.
“In any conflict scenario, equipment is just one factor. But we have to be clear about this upgrade. This is not being done in preparation for any conflict. It is not like we are not going for an all out war,” he explained.
Among the priority acquisitions for the AFP are patrol helicopters with sensors, search and rescue helicopters, transport aircraft, and strategic sealift vessels, Deveraturda said.
“We are also planning to acquire a brand new Hamilton class cutter for our Coast Guard,” Deveraturda said.
Oban said the American-made Hamilton cutter, scheduled for delivery sometime in the third quarter of the year, will be initially deployed to Palawan, some 80 nautical miles from Recto Bank where recent Chinese incursions occurred.
Oban said the AFP will also expand its “coast watch system” within 200 nautical miles of the country’s exclusive economic zone in Palawan.
The military currently has coast watch stations and radars in Mindanao.