Leyte―Rep.-elect Martin Romualdez has joined President Rodrigo Duterte in calling for more budget allocations for the Armed Forces modernization plan and for the improvement of the welfare programs for the families of military personnel.
Romualdez, an adopted honorary member of the Philippine Military Academy Sambisig class of 1991, said he would seek a meeting with top military officials to consult them on the legislative measures that must be given priority so the government could address the concerns of soldiers and their families.
“I was asked to join President Duterte in his working visit to the military camp in Samar and I saw the urgent need for Congress to act on the plight of our men and women in the battlefront, said Romualdez, a lawyer and president of the Philippine Constitution Association.
He was referring to Duterte’s visit late Wednesday afternoon to the Philippine Army’s 8th Infantry Division in Camp General Vicente Lukban in Catbalogan City, Samar, where he also pinned medals for gallantry on nine soldiers who were wounded in action.
With the President and Romualdez during the military camp visit were newly elected Senator Bong Go and Presidential Adviser for the Visayas Michael Dino.
After seeing the condition of the soldiers recuperating in the hospital, Romualdez, president of the Lakas Christian Muslim Democrats, said the 18th Congress should consider as top priority the allocation of a bigger budget for the military personnel who are leading the fight against terrorists and extremists.
Duterte had earlier announced that the government was committed to pouring in P500 million in medical assistance for the troops in the battlefield. He also said the families of the wounded soldiers would also be taken care off.
“The President has shown, consistently, his concern for our soldiers in the battlefront,” said Romualdez, one of the frontrunners in the speakership race.
“It is time for the legislators to complement this presidential concern by providing the budget needed to uplift the living condition of our troops.”
The budget increase, he said, must also include provisions for speeding up the second phase of the Philippine military modernization plan covering the period 2018 to 2022.
Under the first phase of the AFP modernization plan, which covered the years 2013 to 2017, at least P85 billion was allocated for the acquisition of assets including combat utility and attack helicopters, frigates, armored vehicles, rifles and cargo, and transport aircraft.
For the second phase, P125 billion should be earmarked to acquire more equipment for external defense missions, including helicopters, fighter aircraft, multi-role fighters and missile and radar systems.
“We need to ensure that the AFP modernization program is on track so that government troops would continue to serve the nation and protect the country from all threats, said Romualdez, a House Independent Bloc leader of the 16th Congress.
This developed as Reps. Fredenil Castro and Mike Defensor of the Anakalusugan Party-list lauded Romualdez’s concern for the military personnel.
“[The idea of Congressman Romualdez is] very impressive because it suggests his concern for the military personnel who are out in the field offering their lives against Internal and external threats,” Castro, outgoing majority leader, said.
Defensor, a returning congressman, said: The visit conducted by the President with Congressman Martin highlights how our national leaders should act as statesmen connected with the needs of our people especially the military.”
“We need a working Speaker who has a depth of leadership to complement the sterling leadership of Pres Rodrigo Duterte. We need a speaker who is knowledgeable in national security, foreign relations, the economy among others who can keep pace with the knowledge and experience of PRRD,” Defensor said.
“We need a Speaker who knows the plight of the poor, the students, the elders and the needy.”
Last week, Romualdez was also asked to join the President's surprise visit to the NAIA, where the Chief Executive spewed directives to ease congestion at the country's premier airport.
Acting on President Duterte’s instructions, Romualdez appealed for multi-partisan congressional support in securing additional funding for the rehabilitation and upgrade of all vital airports in the country.
Romualdez said the working visits with the President had given him the rare opportunity to see first-hand the urgent problems that needed to be addressed by the incoming 18th Congress.
“I thank the President for the opportunity to see up close the problems that need an immediate solution. Working with him in seeking a solution to the country's problems is a great working experience. For that, I will be eternally grateful, Romualdez said.
Romualdez, an incoming four-term congressman, holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Government from the Ivy League school, in Cornell University, and a Certificate of Special Studies in Administration and Management from Harvard University. He also earned his Bachelor of Laws degree from the University of the Philippines.
One of the laws passed by Romualdez was Republic Act 10754, which exempts more than 1.5-million people with disability from the payment of the 12-percent value-added tax on certain goods and services.
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