Amid drawn-out dispute with China over territorial waters P150B ‘Kalayaan’ bond offer eyed for AFP modernization
The next administration should ascertain the feasibility of offering up to P150 billion worth of ‘Kalayaan’ retail bonds to support the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Modernization Program, amid the country’s long-running row with China over territorial waters, House Deputy Minority Leader and LPG-MA Rep. Arnel Ty said Monday.
The bond float would enable patriotic Filipinos to save money and at the same time help defend the country’s 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone in West Philippine Sea against Chinese incursions, according to the lawmaker.
“The bulk of the additional funds raised from the bond offering may be set aside to acquire new warships – additional frigates and corvettes – for deployment to the West Philippine Sea,” Ty said.
A large portion of the West Philippine Sea is being forcefully claimed by China, which has been building artificial islands on top of partially submerged reefs.
Ty credited President Benigno Aquino III’s administration for spending aggressively for the AFP modernization program -- more than any previous administration.
Citing a Congressional Planning and Budget Office (CPBO) report, Ty said the administration has so far spent P50.73 billion for the military’s ongoing Capability Upgrade Program (CUP).
The Department of National Defense’s P116.1-billion budget for 2016 also includes another P25-billion allotment for the CUP.
Still, the next administration has to spend more to quickly build up the AFP, especially the Philippine Navy, Ty said.
“With or without the dispute with China, we really have to reinforce the Philippine Navy in particular. We should at least make our naval assets comparable to those of Indonesia. Because like Indonesia, we have a large group of islands and vast territorial waters to protect,” he pointed out.
“We have to invest in new warships to secure the West Philippine Sea’s huge oil and gas deposits, which are the key to our energy independence,” Ty, a senior member of the House energy committee, added.
The Philippines has indefinitely suspended all oil and gas exploration activities in and around the hydrocarbon-rich Recto Bank off Northwest Palawan due to the lingering quarrel with China.
The revised AFP Modernization Law of 2012 -- Republic Act 10349 -- provides only P75 billion for the CUP in the initial five years, or from 2013 to 2017.
According to the CPBO, the Aquino administration has so far spent for the acquisition of two second-hand US Coast Guard high endurance cutters converted into frigates -- the BRP Gregorio del Pilar and the BRP Ramon Alcaraz; the landing craft utility BRP Tagbanua; eight Sokol combat utility helicopters; five AW-109 naval helicopters; 18 basic trainer aircraft; plus dozens of 1.25-ton and 2.5-ton troop carrier trucks and field ambulances.
The Navy’s CUP targets include the procurement of another two frigates, this time brand new, for delivery in 2018; two strategic sealift vessels due in 2016 and 2017; five landing craft heavy; and 7,812 units of assault rifles plus 6,000 units of force protection equipment for the Philippine Marine Corps.
The Air Force’s CUP targets include a dozen FA-50 Golden Eagle fighter jets, two of which arrived in December; two C-130 aircraft for delivery in 2016; plus six close air support aircraft and two long-range patrol aircraft due in 2017.
These are on top of the eight AW-109 attack helicopters; eight Bell-412 combat utility helicopters; three C-295 medium lift aircraft; and two C-212 light lift aircraft that were supposed to be delivered last year.
Meanwhile, the Army’s CUP targets include 142 armored personnel carriers which were supposed to arrive last year; 2,884 units of 40mm grenade launchers for delivery in 2016; 66,439 assault rifles for delivery last year and in 2016; and 43,135 units of force protection equipment due last year.