P50B set for AFP modernization program

August 7, 2023 Ryan Ponce Pacpaco 227 views

AMID the simmering maritime dispute between Manila and Beijing, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s administration has increased to P50 billion the budget for the Armed Forces of the Philippines Modernization Program (AFPMP).

“The AFPMP is set to receive another P50 billion in fresh funding in the 2024 national budget,” Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel said in a statement on Monday.

“The P50 billion in programmed new appropriations is all for capital outlay, and shall be used exclusively to bankroll the funding requirements of the AFPMP,” Pimentel, a staunch backer of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between Manila and Washington, said.

“We are most exposed to threats coming from the sea, so we definitely favor larger modernization projects for the Philippine Navy and the Philippine Marine Corps in the years ahead,” Pimentel said.

Pimentel’s remarks came shortly after a China Coast Guard vessel used a water cannon attack to thwart a supply boat from delivering food and other provisions to the Philippine Marine outpost on the BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal.

Pimentel is author of a bill that seeks to declare and develop the 37.2-hectare Pag-asa Island – the largest Philippine-occupied landmass at the northeastern section of the disputed Spratly archipelago – as a recreational fishing tourism destination.

Like Ayungin Shoal, Pag-asa forms part of the Kalayaan Island Group, which also includes the islets of Likas, Parola, Lawak, Kota, Patag and Panata, Balagtas Reef, and Rizal Shoal.

Pimentel is also author of a separate bill that seeks to appropriate P5 billion for the installation of new naval forward operating bases to secure the West Philippine Sea’s gas and oil deposits “for the enjoyment of future generations of Filipinos.”

The AFPMP currently has P27.5 billion in programmed new appropriations plus P17.5 billion in unprogrammed new appropriations in the 2023 national budget.

Programmed appropriations have definite funding sources, whereas unprogrammed ones provide standby authority for the Department of National Defense to sign additional contracts for modernization projects, depending on available government funds, including borrowed money.