THE Department of National Defense (DND) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines are seeking the revival of military exercises with Singaporean troops, which have been shelved for more than 20 years in the absence of a covenant.
DND Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Filipino soldiers can learn a lot from Singaporeans who have a well-developed defense establishment even if their country is small.
Dubbed the Anoa Singa, the bilateral exercises started in 1994 following the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the Philippines and Singapore.
The program was stopped two years later because of the absence of an agreement similar to the Visiting Forces Agreement between the Philippines and the United States.
“We will look into the revival of that Anoa Singa. That’s good because we could also learn a lot from Singaporeans. You know Singapore is a very small country, six million people, an area of 675 square kilometers, very small, but they have also developed their defense industries,” Lorenzana said.
He disclosed that his counterpart in Singapore broached the revival of the program after noting that Singapore has no bilateral exercises with the Philippines. Singapore has mounted military drills with Australia, Taiwan and other countries in Southeast Asia.
“So the defense minister of Singapore and I talked about it, and he said we’ll talk some more about this. They would like to conduct exercises with us also,” Lorenzana added.
If both countries can finish the discussion this year and draft a memorandum of agreement, the bilateral exercises could be carried out early next year.
Meanwhile, the defense secretary is seeking an increase in the defense budget, lamenting that the department has been underfunded for the past 50 years.
In recent meetings with lawmakers, Lorenzana said Singapore has been spending three percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) for defense while other countries in Southeast Asia were spending at least two percent. These are the reasons why these countries have more ships, aircraft, and equipment, Lorenzana explained.
“I told them]we should increase our budget, we have been underfunded for the past 50 years that is why we cannot buy equipment,” he said.
Lorenzana said if Congress will double the 1.2 percent of the GDP it was allocating to defense spending, Defense and military officials would be content.