It is said “no army can withstand the strength of an idea whose time has come.”
That proverb may have arisen under different circumstances, but it is appropriate now when the country faces China’s increasingly aggressive activities in the West Philippine Sea.
And certainly an idea whose time has come is the proposal of seven senators to earmark P1 billion in seed money to finance the development of the country’s own defense industry.
The lawmakers have jointly filed Senate Bill 2455, or the Self-Reliant Defense Posture Revitalization Act, to encourage businesses to invest in the local manufacture of defense equipment.
The proposed measure emphasizes the need to “revitalize the country’s self-reliance defense posture program and to fully harness the potential of the defense industry at a time when security threats are imminent and continue to evolve.”
The bill wants the government to undertake the development of the defense industry and ensure its capability to locally produce advanced weaponry and equipment for its armed forces through technology transfer, partnerships with and incentives for the private sector.
We already have experience, for instance, in shipbuilding that we can rely on to build our own naval vessels to patrol our extensive coastline.
The senators also suggest the creation of a new unit within the Department of National Defense to oversee the implementation of the program and all related projects promoting the domestic production of military supplies.
The Office of the Undersecretary for Defense Technology Research and Industry Development will be responsible for conducting research and development studies and in crafting policies.
It will also be tasked with spearheading the collaboration between the relevant state agencies with private entities in ensuring the success of the country’s SRDP program.
The SRDP program will cover all military equipment “essential to and designed to effectively counter and address chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and cyberattacks or incidents.”
To entice foreign defense companies to set up factories in the Philippines, the bill provides for several incentives, such as exemption from paying import duties.
State-owned financial institutions will be encouraged to support the industry by formulating and extending financial products that would benefit its hastened development.”
At present, our military relies mainly on foreign sources for its armaments, aircraft and naval vessels among other requirements to build a credible defense posture.
But we need to significantly expand the domestic defense industry, perhaps through joint ventures with other foreign firms, so we can be self-reliant in our defense requirements.
The time to start is now, with the proposed P1 billion in seed money to get the ball rolling.