DND, AFP push military modernization as Duterte's term nears end

The Department of National Defense (DND) and Armed Forces of the Philippines will use the final year of President Duterte's term to procure more assets and equipment that will improve their capabilities.

Multiple military assets are deployed for the conduct of an inter-agency solidarity maritime patrol in the Philippine Rise on June 12, 2021. (Photo courtesy of RTVM livestream)

Captain Jonathan Zata, AFP public affairs chief, said 107 modernization projects with a budget of P600 billion were included in the Horizon 2 of the Revised AFP Modernization Program.

"Ang mga projects na iyan ay naisakatuparan na at kung makikita po natin, bukod po sa ongoing Horizon 2 ay marami na rin pong mga kagamitan sa Horizing 1 ang atin pong nakita na, nadeliver na, at ginagamit na po ng hukbong sandatahan (These projects were already finished and aside from the Horizon 2, we also have new equipment from the Horizon 1 which were already delivered and are now being used by the armed forces)," Zata said in a "Laging Handa" press briefing Tuesday, July 26.

Among the new acquisitions include six Super Tucano attack aircraft worth P4.97 billion and six S-70i Black Hawk helicopters worth US$241 million (around P11.5 billion) for the Philippine Air Force; missile-capable frigates BRP Jose Rizal (FF-150) and BRP Antonio Luna (FF-151) worth P16 billion for the Philippine Navy; and force protection equipment for the Philippine Army.

"Patuloy po ang mga proyektong ito at nasa different stages of completion na (These project will continue and are already at different stages of completion)," Zata said.

The first phase or horizon of the revised modernization program started in 2013 and ended in 2017 but some of the projects were only delivered during the implementation of the second horizon, which will run from 2018 to 2022. the third and final horizon will begin from 2023 up to 2027.

Meanwhile, Defense Sec. Delfin Lorenzana said that the DND will push for the continued military modernization, enactment of laws to improve the personnel management of the AFP, and focus on other priorities they have set for themselves in 2016 in the remaining 11 months of the Duterte administration.

"Our road ahead is laid for us by the President and we will do our utmost to accomplish our mandate in securing our country and contributing to national development," he said in a statement.

Both Lorenzana and Zata praised Duterte for "guiding" and supporting" the armed forces all throughout the five years of his presidency.

In his sixth and final State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday night, Duterte urged the Congress to pass priority bills that seek to provide free legal assistance to uniformed personnel who are facing charges for their actions while in the line of duty; and a law that would reform the pension of military and other uniformed personnel.

"At the DND, we are grateful for the enduring support of the President for the improvement of the welfare and capabilities of the Armed Forces of the Philippines when he increased the salaries of the soldiers," Lorenzana said.

"We are thankful for his leadership and direction to end the local communist insurgeny, the provision of benefits for rebel returnees and the enactment of the Bangsamoro Basic Law that would address the grievances of our Muslim brothers. Like our Commander-in-Chief, we take pride in our accomplishments for the past five years, but we also recognize that there are still a lot to be done before his term ends," he added.

For his part, Zata said that the President's support to the military, particularly the raising of soldiers' salaries, has a "big impact" to the overall performance of the AFP which led to operational successes against various security threats.

"Napakalaking impact ang ginawa pong pagsuporta ng ating Commander-in-Chief sa kasundaluhan. Simula po noong 2018, nagkaroon po ng adjustment sa sweldo ng kasundaluhan hanggang sa makumpleto po ito ng 2019 (The support of our Commander-in-Chief to the military has really a big impact. Since 2018, our salaries were adjusted until it was completed in 2019)," Zata said.

He said that after Duterte passed a law which doubles the salary of military personnel, a lowest ranked Private in the military now receives around P30,000 per month from a measly P14,000 before.

Aside from the pay raise, Zata said the aqcuisition of equipment and the provision of additional benefits for military personnel also boosted the morale of the AFP.