MANILA – President Rodrigo R. Duterte's strong support to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has always been considered as part of his administration's legacies.
"The AFP has always been grateful for the direction and support of the Commander-in-Chief in continuously improving its capabilities,” AFP public affairs office chief Navy Capt. Jonathan Zata said in an interview with the Philippine News Agency.
Under the term of President Rodrigo R. Duterte, Zata said the AFP was able to complete a total of 54 projects under RA 7898 (AFP Modernization Act) and RA 10349 (Revised AFP Modernization Act) while 70 other projects were also delivered.
Some of the well-known products of the ongoing AFP Modernization Program are two missile frigates -- the BRP Jose Rizal (FF-150) and the BRP Antonio Luna (FF-151) which are now commissioned and now deployed for patrol missions, the FA-50PH light-interim fighter aircraft, and the two AgustaWestland AW-159 "Wildcat" anti-submarine helicopters.
The AFP also procured Polish-made S-70i "Black Hawk" helicopters of which 10 units are now in the country with the remaining five to be delivered within the year.
Last June 24, an S-70i, part of the first batch of six delivered in November last year, crashed in Tarlac while conducting a night flying exercise.
He added that around PHP125 billion worth of funds was also appropriated for the procurement of these vital and game-changing assets under the present administration.
"New and better equipment, facilities and even personal protective equipment are now being made available to units (now deployed)," Zata said.
He added that these capabilities improved the conduct of military operations against terrorists on the land and sea as well as in providing a more persistent monitoring of the country's interests in the West Philippine Sea.
"Many more lives and communities are saved during HADR (humanitarian assistance disaster relief) operations since most equipment needed during these instances are further improved. While more are still needed, these capabilities are likewise forthcoming," Zata said.
Earlier, AFP chief Gen. Cirilito Sobejana said the military will accelerate its modernization program to be at par with its regional counterparts.
"We will accelerate our modernization program. We should be at par with our neighbors, so we are almost towards 2028 which we envision to become a World Class Armed Forces that is a source of national pride," he added.
Sobejana estimated the completion of AFP modernization at "60 percent", adding that a lot of modern weapon systems and equipment for the military are in the pipeline.
He said this includes personal or individual equipment of troops as well as hospital and medical facilities that would greatly boost the morale of the soldiers.
In 2018, Duterte has fulfilled his campaign promise to increase the salaries of soldiers and cops when he signed into law the Congress Joint Resolution modifying the Base Pay Schedule for Military and Uniformed Personnel (MUP).
Overall, the salary adjustments resulted to a 58.7 percent average increase for all MUP ranks, effective January 1, 2018.
Department of National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana earlier cited Duterte’s continuous support to the AFP modernization program and doubling of salaries of military personnel as among the President’s most significant achievements as far as the security sector is concerned.
Lorenzana said military personnel can focus on their job better if they know they can adequately support their families with their salaries and at the same time do their mandated duty with the new equipment acquired. (PNA)