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Govt to release P10B for AFP modernization

Malacañang on Sunday announced the release of P10 billion for the modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines amid reports of demoralization within its ranks following the deaths of 19 soldiers in a clash with Moro rebels last week.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said the Special Allotment Release Orders are now being prepared for the fund releases on orders of President Benigno Aquino III, the military's commander-in-chief.

"Icha-charge yan against the 2010 and 2011 appropriation of P5 billion each, so yung P5-billion fund from 2010," she said on government-run dzRB radio.

But Valte insisted the release was not due to the clashes that cost several soldiers their lives and triggered calls for at least suspending peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the largest secessionist organization in the country.

“This is something already in the works. Nagkataon ngayon lang natin nailalabas," she said when asked if the fund release was due to the clashes.

She said that of the P10 billion, the Army plans to acquire armored personnel carriers and upgrade its radios and equipment. The Navy, on the other hand, plans to procure a vessel, while the Air Force is targeting to acquire one special mission aircraft and two light lift aircraft costing P1.6 billion.

Part of the amount will also go to civil military operations such as health services, and disaster response activities, Valte said.

On the other hand, the P5-billion appropriation for 2011 will go to acquiring five-ton dump trucks and special purpose vehicles, search-and-rescue helicopters for the Air Force, special purpose and amphibian vehicles, communications equipment and audio-video equipment.

Mum on “demoralization"

Valte declined to comment on reports of demoralization threatening to cause some members of the military to resign or retire early, following the loss of the 19 soldiers and President Aquino's refusal to scrap the peace talks with the MILF.

"We have not received any reports like that. We have no word from the AFP on itong sinasabi nilang alleged demoralization," she said.

But she reiterated that while everyone is saddened over the loss of lives, soldiers can continue to honor the memories of the fallen by continuing to fight for peace.

"From the way we look at it ... we and our soldiers will continue to honor the memories of the fallen by moving forward and by pursuing peace," Valte said.

Valte also declined to comment on how the military can pursue the "lawless elements" in Mindanao if there is a ceasefire in place.

"We will leave that to the AFP leadership to address. The president has already given the order to go after lawless elements. The stern warning of the president is anyone helping or coddling the lawless elements you will be considered enemies of the state. We will leave to the AFP to determine how that will be done," she said. — KBK, GMA News


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