THE House of Representatives is now busy perusing and deliberating on the 2021 budget of the various departments and offices. Occasioned by this yearly congressional review of the spending bill, an honestto- goodness assessment of the nation’s security capability is in order.
The Department of National Defense (DND) has a proposed budget of P209.1 billion next year, and when it was presented by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, several congressmen agreed with him that the amount is short of what the department needs.
Among the priority purchases of the defense department are 16 Black Hawk helicopters for the Philippine Air Force, some P2.6 billion in night fighting equipment and P6.4 billion for the cyber battalion. Sultan Kudarat Rep. Horacio Suansing Jr. believes that these are urgently needed in the military’s serious effort to address the threats of terrorism and insurgency.
Meanwhile, Muntinlupa City Rep. Ruffy Biazon, vice chairman of the House Committee on National Defense, said “the present and emerging challenges that the Philippines and the Defense Establishment face require more than the P209.1 billion currently provided in the General Appropriations Bill.”
‘… several congressmen agreed with him that the amount is short of what the department needs.’
Both Biazon and Suansing touted to their colleagues in the Lower House the necessity of granting the defense department additional allocation to beef up the country’s defense capabilities. While the money measure was being debated at the House yesterday, various news media reported the information from Gen. Gilbert Gapay, Armed Forces chief, that eight foreign terrorists are “hiding” in the country, while 29 other suspects are under close watch for links to regional extremist groups.
General Gapay gave the congressmen details of the extent of the threat posed by suspected terrorists who had sneaked into the country’s southern border. The briefing was made by Gapay during his defense of the P283.3-billion budget of the AFP for next year.
Specifically, the Armed Forces chief told Deputy Speaker and Basilan Rep. Mujiv Hataman that the eight terrorists now hiding in Mindanao have “integrated into the local terrorists group factions, particularly Abu Sayyaf.”
It is a fact that with the economic downturn, decreased tax collections and huge spending to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, the government coffers cannot accommodate all the extra requests from various departments for budget increases. This is the reason behind Biazon’s pushing the bills that would provide the DND additional sources of funding outside the General Appropriations Act in order to modernize the AFP.
House Bill No. 699 seeks to amend the Bases Conversion Development Law to increase the share of the AFP for its modernization program from the current 35 percent to 55 percent, giving the military an additional P3 billion.
“The bill also expands the coverage of the properties where the AFP could benefit from, since the current law only provides for the AFP modernization proceeds from the sale of military camps within Metro Manila. There are more military properties in other parts of the country,” according to Biazon.
Perhaps the congressman from Muntinlupa, a son of the former AFP chief and senator, has the solution to this perennial budgetary woes of the military establishment.