By Maecy Alviar
ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has approved a 300 billion peso ($5.6 billion) budget to modernize the country’s military facilities, the Department of Defense confirmed Wednesday.
The confirmation follows its recent admission that the country is currently incapable of defending its territories amid reports of China’s militarization of the South China Sea.
The five-year modernization plan, which marks the second phase of the Revised Armed Forces of the Philippines Modernization Program initiated under former President Benigno Aquino III, will be implemented from 2018 to 2022, said defense department spokesperson Arsenio Andolong.
The former administration spent around 91 billion pesos ($1.7 billion) acquiring secondhand ships and planes during the first phase, called Horizon 1, from 2013 to 2017.
“Second Horizon is supposed to be our transition period from internal security operations to territorial defense, so we're somewhere in between,” Andolong said as quoted by GMA News.
Under Horizon 2, the country will acquire war materiel for its Army, Air Force and Navy such as multiple launch rocket systems, light tanks, ground mobility equipment, multi-role fighter aircraft, radar systems, heavy lift helicopters, unmanned aerial vehicles, attack and combat utility helicopters, special mission and long-range patrol aircraft, submarines, amphibious assault vehicles, anti-submarine helicopters and attack craft.
The final phase, Horizon 3, will take place from 2023 to 2028.
Andolong said the defense department is yet to meet with the Department of Budget and Management to discuss how to fund these projects.
Following reports of Beijing’s recent deployment of long-range bombers in the Paracel islands in the disputed South China Sea, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana early this month justified the Philippine government’s stance of not resorting to war, saying the country is working double time to upgrade its military facilities.
"It will take some time for us to be able to be ready to defend our territories the way we should defend it in the first place. We don't have the capabilities now," he said.
China has budgeted 1.1 trillion yuan or around $154 billion for defense spending in 2018.
Beijing claims almost all of the South China Sea. Southeast Asian Nations Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan
The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague concluded in 2016 that Beijing's claims to areas of the resource-rich sea have no legal basis in an arbitration launched by the Philippines, the “sovereign rights” of which it said China had violated. China rejected the ruling.