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March 22, 2016

Bond issue proposed to fund ships for South China Sea

“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 Modernization Program, amid the country’s long-running row with China over territorial waters,” a statement from House Deputy Minority Leader and LPGMA (LPG Marketers’ Association) party-list Rep. Arnel U. Ty read.

“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,” Mr. Ty was quoted as saying in the statement.

He cited a Congressional Planning and Budget Office (CPBO) report which shows that the Aquino administration has spent P50.73 billion for the military’s ongoing Capability Upgrade Program (CUP).

Under the 2016 budget, the Department of National Defense’s P116.1-billion budget includes another P25-billion allotment for the CUP.

“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,” Mr. Ty said.

“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,” the statement read.

During the 80th Anniversary of the AFP at Clark, Pampanga, President Benigno S. C. Aquino III said 65 AFP modernization projects worth P56.79 billion were completed under his administration.

In addition, a P83.9-billion Medium Term Capability Development will be implemented until 2017.

According to Mr. Aquino, the three previous administrations were only able to implement 45 projects worth P31.75 billion.

Republic Act No. 10349 or the revised AFP Modernization Law signed in 2012 provides P75 billion for the CUP in the initial five years, or from 2013 to 2017.

Mr. Ty cited a data from the CPBO which showed that 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.

“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,” Mr. Ty said. -- Keith Richard D. Mariano

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