President Benigno Aquino 3rd on Thursday said the modernization efforts for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) should not be seen as militarization especially by countries with claims to the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea0.
“Lest anyone accuse us of shifting to a more militaristic position, I must emphasize: Our efforts seek to modernize the capabilities of our security sector is to address the needs in human disaster response arenas and for our own internal defense,” Aquino said in his speech at this year’s Asian Defense, Security and Crisis Management Exhibition.
“None of these actions are meant to increase tensions in the region; rather, they are meant to address our domestic problems and issues,” he added.
The President said for the longest time, the upgrading of the military’s equipment had been neglected.
“It reached a point where even lawless elements possessed superior equipment. This is precisely why, from day one, we have done everything in our power to give the AFP the support they need to perform their duties to the fullest of their capabilities—and to make sure that the risks they take in the battlefield are reduced to a bare minimum,” he said.
For the past four years, Aquino said P40 billion was released to modernize and upgrade the capabilities of the military.
The country has acquired two warships, a landing craft utility ship, eight Sokol Combat Utility Helicopters, three AW-109 naval helicopters and four refurbished UH-1 helicopters, among many others.
The AFP also recently received its first batch of new M4 caliber 5.56mm rifles and expects to distribute all 50,629 ordered guns by the end of the year.
“Because of our fair and transparent procurement process, we have saved P1.2 billion on these rifles, which has allowed us to order another 12,657 M4s, and to set aside a budget for succeeding rifle procurements,” Aquino said.
“We are also looking forward to the arrival of two out of twelve FA-50 lead-in fighter trainer jets next year, with the others all arriving before 2017. Apart from these, we are expecting seventeen more refurbished UH-1 helicopters, eight more combat utility helicopters, two long-range patrol aircrafts, six close-air support aircrafts, two anti-submarine helicopters, two frigates, and three full missile capable multi-purpose attack crafts, along with other equipment that will strengthen the capacities of our armed forces,” he added.
China and the Philippines, along with Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and
Taiwan, have overlapping claims in the South China Sea, with China and Taiwan claiming the largest swathe of the strategic waters.
The Philippines has challenged China’s sea claim before a United Nations-backed tribunal.
The President said the government has no plans of slowing down in modernizing its military.
“Anytime we have an opportunity to make our military more efficient, we have every intention of taking that opportunity,” Aquino said.
“More than any other time in history, our country is making certain that our soldiers’ commitment on the field is met not only with the respect and admiration of our people, but also by the necessary support from government,” he added.