AFP modernization program in full swing – Gazmin

March 19, 2012 7:31 am 

By Ben Cal

MANILA, March 18 — After years of delay, the modernization program of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is now in full swing with the initial acquisition of four brand-new combat helicopters and one Hamilton-type ship, with 138 pending defense contracts for implementation over the next five years.

This was disclosed by Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin in a speech at the awarding ceremony for outstanding cadets for the graduating “Bagwis Class” of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) for 2012 at Fort Del Pilar in Baguio City Saturday.

“Notwithstanding our present acquisition of military platforms and equipment, our Defense Department and Armed Forces are working speedily on the approval of the contracts for the 138 modernization contracts of our Armed Forces to be implemented over the next five years,” Gazmin said.

He assured that the deadline for the approval of all of the 138 defense contracts will be on July 31, 2012.

Last week, Gazmin presided over the turnover ceremony of four combat utility W-3A Sokol helicopters ordered from Poland. The turnover was held at the Air Force City in Clark, Pampanga.

The acquisition of these helicopters will boost the firepower of the Philippine Air force (PAF), Gazmin said.

The PAF will receive an additional four Sokol utility combat helicopter before the year ends.

Gazmin said that during the first 19 months of the administration of President Benigno S. Aquino III, 18 modernization projects have been completed, including the acquisition of a Hamilton-class cutter from the United States for the Philippine Navy.

The naval ship is named BRP Gregorio del Pilar. Two more similar ships will be acquired this year, Gazmin added.

“Additionally, we await the realization of our other projects which include the acquisition of force protection, coast watch requirements, engineering and utility trucks, and various equipment for the capability enhancement of our soldiers in the field,” he said.

A review of the modernization program revealed that P16.852 billion was made available for the AFP modernization from July 2010 to December 2011.

This is a great improvement compared to the P33.596- billion that was made available during a 15-year period, or an average of P2.24 billion a year, from 1995 to 2010.

During the Aquino administration’s first 17 months in office, 18 projects have been completed, amounting to a total of P4.34 billion.

“We have pursued our goal of upgrading our Armed Forces’ security hardware and equipment, including combat life support, facilities and platforms for our soldiers. This would enable our Armed Forces to ably perform its constitutional mandate of protecting our sovereignty and territorial integrity — in land, air and at sea,” Gazmin said.

The BRP Gregorio Del Pilar cutter will be used to patrol Philippine territorial waters to safeguard the country’s maritime interests. BRP Gregorio del Pilar is now seen as a symbol of the government’s efforts to upgrade the country’s Armed Forces.

As part of its modernization program, a Philippine-made landing craft utility, the BRP Tagbanua, was commissioned on December 14, 2011.

Primarily configured to transport combat personnel, military equipment, and materiel in support of military amphibious operations, the BRP Tagbanua will also perform non-combatant evacuation, medical assistance projects, disaster, rescue and relief missions, and operations in support of the government's national socioeconomic projects.

The Philippine Government Arsenal has also signed a contract with a Canadian company for the acquisition of bullet manufacturing equipment as part of its ongoing modernization program.

A multi-station bullet assembly machine, case manufacture equipment and cartridge assembly equipment will be acquired from Waterbury Farell, a division of Magnum Integrated Technologies Inc. The entire project costs P335.852 million and is expected to be delivered 18 months after the opening of the letter of credit. The acquisition of this equipment will boost the Government Arsenal’s capacity to supply small arms ammunition from 58 to 75 percent.

The accelerated implementation of the AFP modernization was made possible with the full adoption of the Defense System of Management (DSOM) which calls for a “more prudent, efficient, and effective utilization” of resources available. This management strategy is based on the real needs of the Defense establishment, operating with budgetary constraints.

“Premised on the established ideals of our national leadership, which are good governance, transparency, and accountability, we oversaw the proper implementation of our defense and security policies, that would ensure the protection of our country’s sovereignty and the integrity of our national territory,” Gazmin said. (PNA)

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