By Jelly F. Musico
MANILA, Oct. 14 (PNA) – Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile urged the Department of National Defense (DND) on Wednesday to ask Malacanang to increase the budget for the improvement of the country’s defense capability against internal and external threats.
”Mr. Secretary, I’m telling you the amount of your budget is miniscule to the needs of this country. You better work it out and tell Malacanang this is not enough,” Enrile told DND Secretary Voltaire Gazmin during the Senate deliberations on the DND’s proposed PhP158.86 billion budget for 2016.
”We will do that your, honor,” Gazmin replied to Enrile, the former defense minister of the late former President Ferdinand Marcos.
Defying hearing problem and old age, the 91-year-old Enrile lectured the DND officials for an hour and two minutes on how to handle external threats, particularly the West Philippine Sea’s territorial dispute with China.
Enrile advised the country’s security officials not to rely on the United States’ commitment to help if the Philippines is attacked by external forces.
”We have to assess this by ourselves and not rely on what these political U.S. leaders say. You know, the U.S. is going to pull out in the world scene. They are going back to their position in pre-World War II. So you have to think about that; what would be the impact on us,” Enrile said.
During the budget hearing, Enrile and Senate Finance Committee chairperson Senator Loren Legarda learned from the DND officials that out of the total PhP405 billion provided in the two Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Modernization Laws since 1995, only PhP83 billion had been spent for the modernization program.
”So how do we expect the AFP to fulfill its mandate of protecting our seas, our skies, our land, our territories, 100 million population, our climate change threats, internal threats and external threats if we do not have even half of the budget of the two AFP modernization laws?” Legarda said.
Legarda believes it is Congress that is remiss in its commitment to provide enough funds for the AFP modernization program.
”We should stop enacting laws that we cannot fund,” Legarda said.
However, Enrile said it should be the Executive department that should ask for the necessary budget from Congress.
”The budget is prepared by the Executive and it is their responsibility to calculate the security needs of the country and if the Executive presented this request to Congress and then Congress did not approve, then we can be blamed,” Enrile said.
Under the 2016 proposed budget, the DND has allotted only PhP5 billion to augment the PhP20 billion for the AFP Modernization Program under an extension law that was approved in 2012.
The DND has actually allotted PhP25.8 billion for the capital outlay to boost the air, sea and land defense capability of the AFP.
Under the first phase of the AFP Modernization Program from 1995 to 2010, the DND spent PhP63 billion but none has been allotted in acquiring air assets.
Voltaire said it was only under the second phase of the AFP modernization program where the government inked a deal for the acquisition of 12 units of South Korea-made jet fighters and purchased 10 patrol ships.
”The delivery of the 12 jet fighters will be completed in 2017,” Voltaire told the senators.
The Senate panel submitted for plenary consideration the DND proposed budget which is PhP16.56 billion higher compared to its current year’s budget. (PNA)