DND doubles down on push for AFP modernization, more reforms

By Priam Nepomuceno

July 27, 2021, 10:31 am

<p>Missile frigate BRP Antonio Luna <em>(Photo courtesy of Naval Public Affairs Office)</em></p>

Missile frigate BRP Antonio Luna (Photo courtesy of Naval Public Affairs Office)

MANILA – Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said he will continue to push for the military's modernization and measures to improve its personnel management in the remaining months of the Duterte administration.

"In the remaining 11 months in this administration, we will push for the continued modernization of the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines), enactment of laws to improve the personnel management of the AFP and focus on the other priorities we set for ourselves when we assumed our posts back in 2016," Lorenzana said in a statement late Monday night.

Inspired by the overwhelming support from the President, Lorenzana said his agency will spare no effort in fulfilling its mandate to secure the country and contribute to national development.

"At the DND, we are grateful for the enduring support of the President for the improvement of the welfare and capabilities of the AFP when he increased the salaries of the soldiers. We are thankful for his leadership and direction to end the local communist insurgency, the provision of benefits for rebel returnees, and the enactment of the Bangsamoro Basic Law that would address the grievances of our Muslim brothers," Lorenzana said.

While taking pride in accomplishments during the past five years, the DND chief said that there is still a lot of work to be done before Duterte's term ends.

"In this year's State of the Nation Address (SONA), we at the DND were reminded once again that everything we do is for the benefit of the Filipino people. Speaking from the heart in his own, simple and inimitable way, the President showed that even as we aim and work for grandiose goals for our country, at the core of it all is protecting and upholding the dignity of every Filipino from all walks of life," Lorenzana added.

In his final SONA at the Batasang Pambansa on Monday, Duterte said strengthening the capability of the country's military and police has always been a priority under his administration.

In 2018, Duterte said the salaries of military and uniformed policemen and personnel were raised to a level that is "commensurate to the critical role they play in upholding national security and maintaining order".

Under his term, the country's defense capability also got a boost with the acquisition of two missile frigates -- the BRP Jose Rizal and the BRP Antonio Luna.

AFP modernization entering Horizon 2

Meanwhile, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said it is now transitioning from Horizon 1 to Horizon 2 of its modernization program.

In a Laging Handa briefing on Tuesday, AFP public affairs office chief Navy Capt. Jonathan Zata, said around PHP600 billion is allocated for projects for this period.

"Tayo po ay magta-transition na from Horizon 1 to Horizon 2 at meron po tayong mga nakalaan na PHP600 billion para po sa mga proyektong ito. Nasa 107 na 'yung mga projects na yan ay naisakatuparan na (sa ilalim ng Horizon 1) (We are now transitioning from Horizon 1 to Horizon 2 and around PHP600 billion are allocated for projects under it. Some 107 projects are already completed so far under Horizon 1)," he added.

The AFP Modernization Program has three horizons -- Horizon 1 which started in 2013 and ended in 2017, Horizon 2 from 2018 to 2022, and Horizon 3 from 2023 to 2028.

However, the AFP said unforeseeable circumstances were among the reasons for the delay in the implementation of some of its modernization projects.

This is in response to a Commission on Audit (COA) report saying 22 AFP modernization projects remain unfinished as of June 30 this year.

The equipment delivered for Horizon 1, Zata said, includes the six A-29B "Super Tucano" close-air support aircraft, S-70i "Black Hawk" helicopters, of which 10 are already delivered and five more for delivery this year, and the two brand-new missile frigates BRP Jose Rizal and BRP Antonio Luna.

Also in various stages of completion are the force protection equipment of the Philippine Army, Zata said.

"The AFP has always been grateful for the direction and support of the Commander-in-Chief (President Rodrigo Duterte) in continuously improving its capabilities,” he earlier said.

He added that these capabilities improved the conduct of military operations against terrorists both on land and sea and persistent monitoring to protect 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 work is still needed, these capabilities are likewise forthcoming," Zata said. (PNA)