By Charissa Luci-Atienza
Congress has been urged to allot a budget equivalent to two percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to effectively increase the country’s defense spending at make it at par with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) regional standards.
Magdalo Para sa Pilipino partylist Rep. Manuel Cabochan III batted for a bigger defense spending as an expression of support to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) as the protector of the people and the State.
“Compared to our ASEAN neighbors, the Philippines defense spending as percentage of GDP is low by regional standards. The average defense spending as a percentage of GDP was 2.2 percent in ASEAN, while the Philippines is way below that average with 1.1 percent,” he said.
“The defense spending of the Philippines is only 5.4 percent of the total government spending which is below the 8.6 average among member-countries of the ASEAN,” Cabochan pointed out.
The neophyte lawmaker filed House Joint Resolution No. 23 urging the Senate and House of Representatives to make the Philippines’ defense spending at par with the ASEAN regional standards.
“Despite the enactment of Republic Act No. 7898 in 1995, the AFP Modernization Act, and the passage of Republic Act No. 10349, the Revised AFP Modernization Act in 2012, the procurement of crucial defense materials were insignificant, and sadly, the Armed Forces of the Philippines still remains among the least capable militaries in the region, ” he laments.
RA 7898 sought the modernization of the Armed Forces for 15 years and would provide the AFP an amount of P331 billion with an initial budget of P50 billion for the first five years, Cabochan said.
In 2012, former President Benigno S. Aquino III signed into law RA 10349, the Revised AFP Modernization Act, which extended the military modernization program anew for 15 years to boost the AFP’s capacity as it shifts from internal security operations to external defense, Cabochan noted.
“While there have been increases in defense spending in the previous years, the increases have been marginal, starting from low levels, and insufficient vis-a-vis the range of security threats that the Philippines is facing, including terrorism, ” he said.
“In view of the passage of two modernization laws for the AFP and the multitude of problems that our Armed Forcea needs to contend with, there is a need to modernize the AFP and increase the defense spending of our country in order for the AFP to fulfil its mandate as protector of the people and the State, ” the lawmaker said.
He observed that after the United States Military Bases Agreement was repealed in 1992, the Philippines was left with an armed forces that has very limited capabilities.
“As representatives of the people and as an expression of our gratitude and support to the AFP, the country’s defense spending should be increased to at least two percent of our GDP to make it at par with the ASEAN regional standards,” Cabochan stressed.