April 28, 2017, 12:53 am
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1 Philippine Peso = 0.07374 UAE Dirham
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1 Philippine Peso = 1 Philippine Peso
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Triple military spending required for defense, Ateneo economist says

CEBU CITY. – The Philippines needs to invest as much as P411.6 billion on military spending, including for the defense of its maritime resources, an economist said on Wednesday.

The amount is a ballpark figure three times the current P137.2 billion budget of the military and is on the wish list of Dr. Ronald U. Mendoza, dean of Ateneo de Manila University’s School of Government.

The present defense budget is 1 percent of GDP, and Defense Secretary Delfin N. Lorenzana reportedly wants it pegged at 2.5 percent of GDP. Mendoza rounded that up to 3 percent of GDP, putting the ideal defense spending at P411.6 billion.

That much is needed to defend the country, including its maritime resources that are worth a conservative $970 billion in monetary value, contributing up to $1.5 trillion per annum to the economy, he said.

“We want more investments on national defense, not because we want to be militaristic but because we want to protect our resources,” said Mendoza, a member of the Multi-Sector Governance Council, the military’s good governance watchdog.

The national budget for 2017 is P3.35 trillion or around $70 billion, the highest in history. While that is an improvement, he said, “it’s only a minimal increase” – P137.2 billion allocated for defense this year over the P117.5 billion defense budget in 2016.

“We need proper investment on our Armed Forces so we can defend our resources,” he told the Visayas Regional Scientific Conference convened by the National Academy of Science and Technology, the country’s highest science policy body.

Other countries will use the country’s natural resources, with its high monetary value, if the Philippines doesn’t invest on defense, said Mendoza, an associate professor at Ateneo and formerly an associate professor of Economics at the Asian Institute of Management and a senior economist with the United Nations in New York.

“Marine ecosystems can contribute a conservative monetary value of about $970 billion up to US$1.5 trillion per annum to the economy. Total monetary value associated with coral reefs, seagrasses and mangroves is estimated to be $98.298 billion or P1.553 trillion, which is almost at par with the contribution of the manufacturing sector to the country’s nominal GDP in 2007.”

Mendoza said the Philippines is the world’s second largest archipelagic country with the fifth longest coastline (36,289 kilometers), longer than that of China, the United States and Japan. The country ranks 10th in the world fishing industry; fisheries contribute 1.8 percent to the total GDP.

Most or 70 percent of the Coral Triangle are within its border; the Triangle is the global center of marine diversity where 76 percent of the world’s coral species live and home to least 2,228 species of reef fish.

“Philippine resources in the maritime sector include 138 million barrels of oil and 3.48 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves,” Mendoza said.

“Some of these territories are contested. The challenge is to manage the resources even as they are contested,” he said, pointing out that because future generations of contesting countries stand to benefit, “contradictions should not stand in the way… it’s possible to do without weakening or giving up claims.” 

Cooperation between contesting countries should be spearhead not by the military but by scientists, Mendoza said.

That doesn’t negate the need for the Philippine military to improve its arsenal and hardware complemented by improvements in science, technology and human resources, including scientists, engineers and managers, he said in an interview.

“It’s not business as usual with the modern military which needs a lot of things,” he said, pointing to the use of drones in surveillance and attacks as well as cyberwarfare, “not just weapons but other science.”
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