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House leader pushes extension of 15-year AFP modernization program

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A ranking member of the House of Representatives has asked Congress to fast track the approval of a bill providing for another 15-year modernization program for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to upgrade the fighting capability of the soldiers in the field.

Muntinlupa City Rep. Rodolfo Biazon, chairman of the House committee on national defense and security, said there is a need to immediately approve House Bill 4949 seeking to amend Republic Act 7898, otherwise known as the AFP Modernization Act, as the current program will expire in December this year.

"The modernization program should focus on internal security to be able to address some critical areas in the country," he said.

Biazon said the proposed P428 billion for the first five years of the modernization program as provided under HB 4949, which he authored, will be utilized for the procurement of new military hardware.

Aside from firearms and ammunition, the AFP needs more helicopters which could be used for transporting arms and medical supplies and picking up the injured soldiers and ferry them to and from hospitals.

Biazon said Congress can use the Malampaya earnings estimated at P103 billion for the modernization plan.

"A part of that amount could be earmarked for the procurement of more helicopters for field operations," he said.

Data shows that in 2002, the AFP has a strength of 106,000 soldiers, with reserves of 131,000 men.

The Army, with 73,000 personnel, has eight infantry divisions and five engineer battalions. Equipment included 40 Scorpion tanks.

The Navy has a total of 24,000 personnel, including 7,500 Marines, with one frigate and 58 patrol and coastal combatants.

The Philippine Air Force (PAF) has the strength of 16,000, with 49 combat aircraft and 67 armed helicopters.

In previous years, the PAF was able to purchase new SF-260 trainer planes and night attack helicopters. It was also set to acquire eight primary trainer aircraft, 10 additional Huey UH-1H utility helicopters, eight brand new combat utility helicopters, eight new attack helicopters, two light lift aircrafts, and 12 trainer helicopters.

"As former AFP chief, I would know and would be able to look more closely at the way the AFP modernization plan would be more apt and beneficial, not only to the Philippine military but to the government and people," said Biazon.

"There is a need to recommend an amount that will give the AFP modernization a more realistic modernization program and effectively respond to the real needs of the country’s military arm," he said. (PNA)




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