Philippines can’t afford full military modernization: officials
The Philippines can only afford a “frugal” military upgrade, defense officials said Monday, even though maritime tensions with mainland China are growing.
Despite a proposed 25-percent rise in next year’s defense budget, the government must still divide resources between external defense and internal threats like insurgencies and natural disasters, Defence Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and other security officials added.
Since President Benigno Aquino took office in mid-2010, the Philippines has acquired two former U.S. coast guard cutters, three landing craft from Australia and South Korea and seven surplus UH-1H helicopters.
“The goal of updating and mod- ernizing our armed forces is a long and painstaking process,” Gazmin told a ceremony for the commissioning of 10 more newly acquired air force helicopters.
“That means we have to be frugal and acquire reliable platforms at very reasonable costs ... as allowed by our meager financial resources.”
The modest upgrade has been prompted partly by mainland China’s moves to stake its claim to most of the South China Sea.
These include building new islands in the Spratly archipelago and taking effective control of Scarborough Shoal after a standoff with the Philippine Navy.
Philippine Air Force chief Lt Gen. Jeffrey Delgado said the 10 new helicopters will be used to address internal security problems.
Military chaplains sprinkle holy water on eight brand new Bell-412EP helicopters that were procured by the Philippine Air Force from Bell Helicopter Textron and two attack helicopters, the Augusta Westland AW-109E from Italy as part of its modernization program at Villamor Air Base, in the suburban Pasay city, south of Manila, Philippines, Monday, Aug. 17.