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MANILA, Philippines – Due to scarcity of funds and the fiscal ceilings set by the government, the Senate Committee on Finance has approved only P5 billion of the P15 billion sought by the Department of National Defense (DND) for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) modernization plan.
Senator Franklin Drilon, panel chairman, said the 2013 General Appropriations Act (GAA) can only allocate P5 billion of the P15 billion needed in 2013 for AFP upgrading.
“We cannot give the whole amount of P15 billion since it is principally a question of where to source these funds because the budget would have a limitation on the source of funds and our deficit level. So these restrictions on the available fund to put in total P15 billion,” Drilon explained.
However, he learned from Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin the remaining P10-billion budget will be provided for in unprogrammed appropriations in the 2013 budget.
Lease AFP assets
Drilon challenged Gazmin and the rest of the DND top brass, including the AFP, to look for funds similar to the system in the Bases Conversion Development Authority (BCDA), where the proceeds from the sale of military camps was used to fund modernization program.
“We are looking to lease vast tracks of military lands which can enter into a lease agreement or joint venture agreements with agricultural companies, agricultural enterprises, so they can generate funds out of (these) idle assets to fund the AFP modernization program,” Drilon said.
“There are thousands of public lands which can be made productive and can be the source of the modernization. It is not only the sale but the utilization of our assets including public lands in the military camps,” Drilon said. As examples he cited Hamindan Camp in Panay island “which is over 30,000 hectares and the Fort Magsaysay which is 43,000 hectares.”
Under the AFP Modernization Act, the country needs P75 billion for the next five year, but the national government, said Drilon, could allocate only P5 billion for 2013, and it still needs P70 billion more.
“They cannot rely for funding entirely from the General Appropriations Act, because you compete with other priorities of the entire government and the amount that could be allocated to modernization, would have to take into account and be limited by the budget ceiling, and deficit ceiling,” Drilon explained.
For his part, Gazmin said the DND has formed a committee to look into all AFP properties, and review documents to support the assets-mobilization project, since there are military lands that have no titles and are declared public lands.
“We are still planning that. We have formed a committee to look into all our properties, and look at all documents that will support this project. Number 1, we need titles for these lands because right now, there are military properties with no papers. There are still many areas that we can sell or lease,” Gazmin said.