Thursday, June 21, 2012

Vessels Needed In Panatag – Gazmin

Country ‘Window Shopping’ For Fighters



Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin sees the need for Philippine government ships to go back to Panatag Shoal, saying the absence of any vessel may eventually lead to the country losing its claim to the dispute area.
“If we do not send back our ships there, they may eventually use it as basis for their claim,” said Gazmin, referring to China.
The Philippines has been locked in a dispute with China over the Panatag Shoal which is located off Zambales province. The country’s three vessels earlier left the area following Butchoy’s visit.
The Foreign Affairs department earlier said that the withdrawal of vessels was part of verbal agreement but China ships did not follow suit.
As soon as the weather condition improves, Gazmin said he would recommend for the return of at least three Philippine government vessels to Scarborough.
“They did not leave so we have to go back there,” said Gazmin.
He said that it would be ships from the Philippine Coast Guard and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources which he would recommend to return.
The Philippines is now upgrading its military capability after the Panatag standoff. The concentration of the modernization program is on the Philippine Air Force via procurement of fighter jets.
Meanwhile, Gazmin said the reported purchase of T50 fighter jets from South Korea is not yet definite as an evaluation team is still conducting “window shopping” in other countries.
“The T50 is just one of the candidates for our leading fighter jets,” said Gazmin.
A T50 costs some P1.2 billion and the Philippine government is planning to buy 12 fighter jets.
Another option is the Super Tucano in Brazil, he said.
“We are just completing our study so that we can select the best possible option for us,” said Gazmin.
Gazmin assured that the procurement of 12 fighter jets and other military hardware for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) would not be tainted by graft.
He said the government may even end up saving money due to their decision to turn the purchase of military hardware into a government to government transaction.
“There is no longer middleman in government-to-government, so the price will not be padded because there is no more need for the commission of the middleman,” said Gazmin.
Gazmin made the statement amid concerns of corruption in the purchase of jet fighters from South Korea since the procurement will no longer undergo the normal bidding process.
Aside from fighter jets, the Philippine government is also planning to buy helicopters and other military hardware that would serve the need to strengthen the country’s territorial defense following the Scarborough standoff with China.
The fund for the purchase will come from the AFP modernization program which is proposed to be funded with P75 billion for five years, starting 2013.
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Aaron Recuenco | Manila Bulletin | June 21, 2012 | Article Link

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