Congress proposes PH retail bond to fund AFP modernization
MANILA - Congress on Monday asked the Philippine government to study a proposal to issue a 150 billion peso ($3.2 billion) retail bond to fund a long-term military modernization plan to secure its strategic reserves in the South China Sea.
Arnel Ty, deputy minority leader at the lower house of Congress, said Congress will ask the Treasury to consider a bond issue to enable Filipinos to save and at the same time help secure the Philippines' maritime borders against China's rapid expansion in the South China Sea.
"The bulk of the additional funds raised from the bond offering may be set aside to acquire new warships, like frigates and corvettes, for deployment to the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea)," Ty told reporters.
"We have to invest in new warships to secure the potential huge oil and gas deposits in the West Philippine Sea, which are the key to our energy independence."
National Treasurer Roberto Tan told Reuters he had not been advised about the submission, saying "I still have to familiarize myself with the proposal".
Last month, President Benign Aquino vowed to leave behind a stronger and more capable military to face maritime challenges in the contested Spratly Islands when he leaves office on June 30, announcing an 83.9 billion peso five-year spending plan extending to 2017.
China claims almost all the South China Sea, believed to have huge deposits of oil and gas, through which about $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims in the strategic waters.
In 2012, a Chinese patrol ship harassed a survey ship hired by an Anglo-Filipino consortium exploring for oil and gas in the Philippines' Reed Bank, an area Beijing claimed to be part of its territory.
Last year, Manila suspended oil and gas activities in the Reed Bank area.
Ty said Congress has passed a revised military modernization law, allocating 75 billion pesos for a five-year period until 2017. Since coming to office in 2010, Aquino has spent about 50 billion pesos on military equipment.
This year, Congress appropriated 25 billion pesos to acquire two frigates, three anti-submarine helicopters, six close air support planes and munitions for the South Korean-made FA-50 light fighter planes.
The military has an ambitious 15-year modernization plan to spend about 998 billion pesos to acquire submarines, advanced missile systems, and surveillance aircraft to put the country on par with its Southeast Asian neighbors. (Reporting by Manuel Mogato; Editing by Eric Meijer)