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AFP modernization: P-Noy's inspiring and zealous covenant

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In a manner that no other Commander-in-Chief in Philippine history has done, President P-Noy first expressed it briefly, directly and simply during the AFP Change of Command on July 2nd last year (after only a month and two days in office) in these words:

Tell us what you need and we will give it to you, as long as they are based on principles of professionalism and utilitarianism; as long as they will benefit the whole institution and not only the interests of a few.

Last August 23rd, he obversely expressed the same covenant even more tersely during an interview after the welcome ceremony for the BRP Gregorio del Pilar, when he said:  “I want everything.”  President P-Noy was referring to his intention of procuring all the equipment and hardware required to modernize the AFP, specifically to his “long wish-list of equipment that he would like to procure for the military [as well as the PNP and Coast Guard] during his term.” 

(Katherine Evangelista, “Aquino ‘wants everything’ for military under his term,” INQUIRER. net, August 23, 2011) 

Both declarations, although issued in two different occasions, echoed his determination to upgrade the AFP in particular so that it can ultimately regain its place among the best armed forces in Asia. Relevantly, he emphasized the significant role of the “del Pilar” in his welcoming speech, thus:

This ship symbolizes our newly acquired ability to guard, protect, and if necessary, fight for the interests of our country in the disputed West Philippine Sea (formerly South China Sea).

It would help protect our country’s exclusive economic zone and its oil and gas exploration activities in the contested sea. . . . [It is the] symbol of our defense.  (Dona Z. Pazzibugan, “President Aquino: Ship symbol of our defense,” Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN, August 24, 2011).

For Vice Admiral Alexander Pama, Philippine Navy Chief, the BRP Gregorio del Pilar “symbolizes the revival of the Philippine Navy. . . . [Its] ability to operate in adverse conditions will be vital in securing our maritime nation’s territory and asserting our sovereignty in areas where our capability is now seriously needed.” He further said that the Navy planned to acquire at least two more such ships from the US Coast Guard. (Pazzibugan)

President P-Noy’s “wish-list of equipment” for the AFP includes the following:

1.    For the Navy:  strategic sealift vessels with amphibious vessels, offshore patrol vessels, naval helicopters, coast watch stations, weather heavy endurance cutter, and a submarine (still subject for study);

2.    For the Army:  new assault rifles, armor assets, tanks, armored personnel carriers, force protection – helmets, bullet-proof vests – and night fighting equipment [and radios];

3.    For the Air Force:  surface attack aircrafts, air defense radars, long-range patrol aircrafts, and close-air support aircraft [and trainer fighter jets].  (POSITIVE NEWS MEDIA: Philippines, August 31, 2011)

In a related development, PAF Spokesman Lt. Col. Ernesto Okol has revealed that the PAF will acquire “four brand new Polish-made multi-utility helicopters by November. . . . the first of a batch of eight, which cost a total of P2.8 billion. [These] can be used for combat, troop transport and disaster response.”  (Abigail Kwok, “Air Force acquiring 4 new multi-role  choppers,”  InterAksyon.com, August 24, 2011).

The bottom line in all this is military capability development and readiness to deal with any security threat – internal or external – especially when the legal and moral right of our country over certain nearby territories is disputed by other, more powerful countries. However, it should be emphasized that President P-Noy and his Administration – and the Filipino people, I’m sure – prefer that such an issue be resolved through peaceful means with the involvement of legitimate  international bodies.

Nevertheless, worthy of note is the timely boost the AFP modernization program has gotten from Muntinlupa City Representative Rodolfo Biazon, Chairman of the House Committee on National Defense and Security (HCNDS), who “asked Congress to fast track the approval of a bill providing for another 15-year modernization program for the [AFP, because] the current  program will expire in December this year.” 

Himself a former AFP Chief of Staff, Rep. Biazon is the author of House Bill 4949 which proposes the expenditure of “P428 billion for the first five years of the [extended] modernization program . . . for the procurement of new military hardware [and] more helicopters [to] be used for transporting arms and medical supplies and picking up the injured soldiers and ferry them to . . . hospitals.”  He also opined that “Congress can use the Malampaya earnings estimated at P103 billion for the [AFP] modernization plan.”  (Philippine News Agency, “Biazon pushes bill extending AFP modernization program,” August 9, 2011) President P-Noy’s zealous covenant on modernizing the AFP must be greatly inspiring for the proud men and women of the armed forces – and, for that matter, the entire Filipino nation.

For the proposition that the power of a country’s armed forces is a source of national pride is not far-fetched.  So, too, is the assumption that inevitably such a country – big or small – would command global respect and admiration.  The United States of America (USA) and Israel are the paragons in this regard.

Although such proposition is not explicitly readable as a goal in President P-Noy’s AFP modernization formula, as it were, it can nonetheless be deduced from the following universally addressed, inspirational lines he had uttered in three different occasions:

We campaigned for change. Because of this, the Filipino stands tall once more. We are all part of a nation that can begin to dream again.  (Inaugural Address, June 30, 2010)

We have already begun the process of change, and we are now able to dream of better things for our country. . . . The  mandate we received last May 10 is testament to the fact that the Filipino continues to hope for true change. . . . Let us all become one in achieving a fulfillment of our hopes and aspirations for our country.  (First SONA, July 26, 2010)

We still have five years left to ensure that we will not return to what once was. We will not be derailed, especially now that what we have begun has yielded so many positive results.  (Second SONA, July 25, 2011)

Despite the doubts aired by his critics and detractors, President P-Noy is clearly determined to fulfill this covenant and his other promises. Consider the earnestness in this concluding part of his Inaugural Address: “I will not be able to face my parents and you who have brought me here if I do not fulfill the promises I made.”

With the timely congressional support which HCNDS Chairman Biazon has initiated, it is doubly justifiable to expect President P-Noy to fulfill his inspiring and zealous covenant with the AFP and, through it, the Filipino people as a whole.

By Ric Adjawie




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