MANILA, Philippines — The military’s modernization program is not preparation for an armed confrontation with China, but for achieving a “minimum defense capability” that Filipinos will be proud of, according to a defense official.
Defense Undersecretary Fernando Manalo said on Wednesday that the upgrade of military bases would be part of the P75-billion modernization plan for the Armed Forces of the Philippines, aside from acquiring new equipment for the military.
The Philippine Navy’s bases in Cebu and Palawan would be among those to be rehabilitated with new equipment to be acquired under the program, said Manalo, the official in charge of finance, munitions, installations and materiel.
Manalo said the Subic Naval base, a former US military base, would not be among the bases to be upgraded yet.
Access roads, bases and support facilities will also be built for Air Force radars, according to Manalo.
“The modernization is being implemented because there is really a need to equip our Armed Forces, not because we are planning to go to war with China,” Manalo said.
“There is no armed force in the world that does not plan to modernize,” he said, noting that the Philippines’ neighbors have been investing billions of dollars in modern equipment.
Facing threats from communist insurgents, terrorists and now a country that has claimed Philippine territory as its own, the Philippine government could not order its soldiers “to fight for our country’s rights with their bare hands,” Manalo said.
Manalo, himself a former Air Force general, said that the military equipment being acquired for the Armed Forces might not be “at par” with the state-of-the-art equipment of other countries, “but at least [they are] something we Filipinos can be proud of.”
“As a former soldier myself, it is a source of pride for me and I am sure all of us believe that it will be a source of pride for all of us to see that our Armed Forces have new equipment,” Manalo said.
The program includes the acquisition of fighter jets, frigates and naval helicopters.
Twelve fighter jets will be bought for P18.9 billion and two frigates for P18 billion, according to Manalo.
The fighter jets will be acquired from the Korea Aerospace Industries.
Manalo said the defense department was waiting for the Office of the President to issue a sales agreement that would allow it to proceed with the purchase of the aircraft.
Among those interested to sell naval frigates to the Philippines are Korean firms Hyundai and Daewoo, Spain’s Navantia, Australia’s Austal and a Singapore company, Manalo said.
“What we want is to have a minimum credible defense capability, so those who want to wage war with us would think twice,” he said.
President Aquino said on Tuesday that the Philippines would not get into a military conflict with China on his watch.
The Constitution renounces war as a policy and the Philippine government will always advocate for peaceful means to resolve its territorial dispute with China in the West Philippine Sea, according to Aquino.
He said the government would allow the United States and Japan, the Philippines’ only two “strategic partners,” access to the former US military bases in the Philippines to forge a “credible alliance” with them.