Thursday, May 10, 2012

Government to modernize AFP using own resources - DND

MANILA, Philippines - The Department of National Defense (DND) said yesterday that the government is trying to modernize its military using its own resources amid criticisms that the $30-million support offered by the United States is insufficient.

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said the government should not be too dependent on external sources in beefing up its security capabilities.

“We’re not beggars. We are poor but we certainly will not beg,” Gazmin said during the Defense Press Corps forum in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

“We should not be relying so much insofar as our acquisition and upgrade of our military equipment is concerned. If they (US) will give us something, okay, then we stand on our own. We try to stand on our own,” he added.

Gazmin was asked to react to criticisms that the $30-million foreign military financing offered by the US to the Philippines is too small.

The US reportedly doubled to $30 million from $15 million the military assistance allocation for the Philippines for fiscal year 2012.

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, however, said the amount was inadequate and insulting. He said the amount was too small, considering that the US has been benefiting from its relationship with the Philippines.

“If it is just $30 million, if I were the government of President Aquino, I would say thank you but I don’t need $30 million. We can provide that $30 million for ourselves,” Enrile told dzBB last Sunday.

He said it appears that the Philippines is begging alms from the US.

Meanwhile, Gazmin said the military is considering acquiring a warship from Italy.

“We are not totally relying on the US. We will get other equipment to address our military upgrade. The good equipment that fits our budget (would be bought),” he said, when asked to confirm reports that a third warship would be acquired from Europe.

“We are looking at Europe, yes, we are looking specifically at Italy,” he added.

Last year, the military acquired its first high-endurance cutter from the US Coast Guard to beef up its maritime security capability.

The warship, which has been renamed BRP Gregorio del Pilar, has been deployed to the West Philippine Sea. The Philippine government spent P450 million for the ship’s transfer costs.

A second warship, the 45-year-old USS Dallas, has been offered to the Philippines and is expected to arrive in Manila this year.

Gazmin said he asked the United States to provide the equipment removed from the BRP del Pilar during the two-plus-two meet in Washington last April 30.

The two-plus-two meet was attended by Gazmin, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, US State Secretary Hillary Clinton and US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.

The US removed some of BRP Gregorio del Pilar’s accessories before it was turned over to the Philippines.

Some of the features stripped from the ship were the sensors, communications and electronics equipment, and close-in weapons system.

Gazmin hopes the USCGC Dallas will be turned over to the Philippines in its original state, including its vital equipment and accessories.

He said the Philippine government has also asked the US to provide radar systems that would allow it to monitor its maritime boundaries.

The DND, however, is not keen on acquiring F16 jet fighters.

“F16 is an aging air asset. If they (US) give us those that are mothballed, you will have to refurbish them. It will cost too much. If the remaining flying time is just three or four years, you are shortchanged,” Gazmin said.

Alexis Romero | The Philippine Star | May 10, 2012 | Article Link

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