The government’s ongoing campaign against various threat groups are definitely slowing down efforts to modernize the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Saturday.
“Of course, because money that could have been used for modernizing our troops are used to fight terror,” Lorenzana said.
“For instance, in the five-month Marawi siege, the AFP spent almost P4 billion [to fight and defeat the Maute Group terrorists], excluding the amount to care for the IDPs [internally displaced persons] by other agencies that ran into billions as well,” he added in response to queries on whether ongoing internal security operations have an effect on the AFP’s modernization.
Fighting in Marawi City began on May 23, 2017 when elements of the Islamic State-inspired Maute Group attacked the city.
That triggered a battle that ended five months later in October, when military units neutralized Abu Sayyaf leader and Islamic State Southeast Asia “emir,” Isnilon Hapilon, along with 1,000 militants.
Defense department spokesperson Arsenio Andolong previewed Lorenzana’s comments last Wednesday when asked what the public could expect for Horizon Three of the Revised AFP Modernization Program, which is expected to run from 2023 to 2028.
“Horizon Three [still] has to be studied and discussed because we have a new mix. There has been movement, so that will allow us to now plan for what [equipment and platforms] we need,” Andolong said.
“It pre-supposes that we have already reached the level of credible defense posture, so we will now be concentrating on territorial defense already,” the spokesman added.
“But of course, we still have our internal security operations that are ongoing. That is one of the hindrances to our modernization because our attention is being divided,” he said.
Horizon Two, which is slated for 2018 to 2022, is the AFP’s transition period from internal security operations to territorial defense.
However, due to the conflicts, the progress of the AFP in this acquisition phase is “somewhere in between” as the Defense department is acquiring equipment for internal and external defense usage, Andolong said.
Horizon One lasted from 2013 to 2017 and resulted in the acquisition of the three Del Pilar-class frigates, 12 FA-50PH light-lift interim fighters, and two strategic sealift vessels, to name a few.
The pieces of equipment slated for acquisition during Horizon Two are towed and self-propelled howitzers, multiple launch rocket systems, armored recovery vehicles, five support vehicles, tactical radios, ground mobility equipment (light, medium, heavy), individual weapons, crew-served weapons, and night-fighting equipment for the Army.
It also includes multi-role fighters, radar systems, light and medium-lift aircraft, heavy lift helicopters, unmanned aerial vehicles, attack and combat utility helicopters, special mission and long-range patrol aircraft for the Air Force; frigates, corvettes, submarines, amphibious assault vehicles, anti-submarine helicopters, attack craft, medium-lift helicopters, and multi-role vessels for the Navy.
Also being eyed are a combat engineer, force protection, explosive ordnance disposal, as well as humanitarian assistance, and disaster relief and medical equipment.