Sen. Imee Marcos backs the military’s plan to organize civilian forces to protect the country’s fishermen who are constantly under threat of harassment and aggression by Chinese militia in the West Philippine Sea.
Marcos said the Naval Special Operations Group (NAVSOG), also known as the Philippine Navy Seals, should expand its recruitment and ratchet up multiplier forces in fishing communities.
“Let us at least defend our fishermen. Have we given up defending them? We can’t just cower in fear and remain defenseless and vulnerable,” Marcos said.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana had earlier told the Senate that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has attained less than 25 percent of its “minimum credible defense” due to budget constraints and legal hurdles to procuring military supplies and equipment.
Marcos has filed Senate Bill No. 1871 to address the limited funds for defense by reviving Presidential Decree 415 or the Self-Reliance Defense Posture Program (SRDP) which seeks to promote the local manufacture of military supplies and equipment from firearms to vehicles while conserving foreign exchange resources.
The senator said that under the SRDP program, the government was able to manufacture armaments with maximum utilization of indigenous materials “and saved dollars.”
She said such armaments include the M-16 assault rifle, 60mm mortar tube, 81mm mortar tube and gun barrels, as well as the MKII hand grenade and 5.56mm and 81mm mortar ammunition.
“We were also able to produce in the 70s vehicles like the Jiffy jeeps, mini cruisers, hovercraft, speed boats, Marcelo boats, PCF, LCVP and whale boat,” she recalled.
The lawmaker lamented that the decades of delay in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) modernization program has left the country vulnerable, not only to foreign incursions into its territory and exclusive economic zone, but also to calamities like the COVID-19 pandemic as well as cyber and biological warfare.
“A meager 21 out of the 152 projects have been completed as of August 2019 under Horizon 1,” she said referring to one of the three-phases of the AFP modernization program which she noted is already three years past its 2017 completion deadline.
“Worse, some 25 are still in various stages of procurement,” she pointed out.
The senator had also earlier filed Senate Bill No. 1707 which seeks to preserve the confidential and top-secret nature of defense supplies and equipment procurement.
Marcos said the measure seeks to fully exempt the acquisition of defense supplies from full disclosure under the General Procurement Act.
“Transparency does not mean full disclosure as there are trade secrets that only few people need to know, such as the purchase of major and highly classified defense material which, if revealed, may pose an imminent threat to national security,” she said.