By Mario Casayuran
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is still catching up with its Asian neighbors on having a minimum credible defense posture.
This was the statement of Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin N. Lorenzana when asked on this issue by Senator Panfilo M. Lacson who chaired a Senate finance sub-committee that scrutinized the military establishment’s proposed 2020 P258.3 billion budget.
During the hearing, Lacson cited the need to revisit the AFP Modernization Program as China refuses to recognize a United Nations Arbitration Court rejecting China’s historical claim over most parts of the South China Sea, including the Philippine territorial claim over the West Philippine Sea.
Chinese vessels also continue to pass through Philippine maritime jurisdiction without informing Philippine authorities.
The DND is seeking a budget of P258.35 billion for 2020 including P119.118 billion for personnel services; P69.704 billion for pension; P40.701 billion for Maintenance Operating and other Expenses (MOOE); and P28.831 billion for capital outlay.
Lacson said the Revised AFP Modernization Program might need some adjustments so it could meet its goal of achieving a minimum credible defense posture.
Lacson said the Philippines is near the bottom compared to the country’s neighbors and fellow members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
“Iba na labanan ngayon. Pati sa intelligence, it’s less human intelligence, more signal or electronic intelligence. Have we progressed along that line?” he asked.
Responding, Lorenzana said they have not quite reached such a status and that “we have to catch up.”
Meanwhile, Lacson asked the DND if the Philippines has a counter-strategy to the Chinese military’s ‘cabbage strategy’ at the West Philippine Sea.
“The Chinese military has been quite open in announcing the application of their cabbage strategy. I’d like to find out if we have a counter-strategy. Layer upon layer until magutom ang troops until they would not want to go back there anymore. Are we encountering problems in our supply?” Lacson asked.
Lorenzana replied that supplies have been unimpeded by Chinese vessels so far.
Lacson then pushed for more investments by the DND in research.