Defense budget needs 2% of GDP to be at par with Asean – military
MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine government should increase its defense spending to at least 2 percent of the country’s growth domestic product (GDP) to increase the readiness of its armed forces and keep up with its neighbors in the region.
Despite the recent new acquisitions of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, its capability to defend the country’s territory remains limited, Brig. Gen Roy Galido of the AFP Systems Engineering Office told lawmakers during a briefing at the House of Representatives early this week.
“There’s a need to premise our defense expenditure on our country’s GDP at 2 percent per annum,” he said.
The DND is one of the government agencies with the biggest budget allocations, but it does not necessarily mean it goes for the purchase of new weapons.
For 2020, DND has a proposed budget of P189 billion for its regular funds. The money required to fund the military’s modernization program is not entirely included in the budget proposal.
According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s Military Expenditure Database, the Philippines spends 1.1 percent of its GDP on its armed forces.
The regional average stood at 1.9 percent.
Galido said if the defense expenditure will be at least 2 percent of the country’s GDP, the defense budget would be around P320 billion, which is still lower than the budget for the Department of Education.
The Constitution requires that education should be the top priority in the budget. The DepEd has the lion’s share of the proposed P4.1 trillion national budget for 2020 at P673 billion.
“This amount is a good benchmark for defense expenditure and a sure continuity of the modernization program to have a credible defense posture among neighboring countries,” Galido said.
The Philippine military remains to be among the most ill-equipped in Asia, even if it continues to modernize its army, navy, and air force.
“Notwithstanding the resources allocated for the defense program by our government, our neighboring Asean countries are spending more relative to their GDP, thereby making our modernization program incomparable,” Galido said.
The Philippine military’s modernization status can be attributed to the financial constraints and intricacies of procuring defense equipment, he said.
The official also noted that the modernization program has also focused mainly on materiel development, overlooking the other aspects of modernization – the human resource, doctrines and organization, bases/support systems development.
P251-B deficit seen
The military predicts a P251.38 billion budget deficit in carrying out the modernization program.
Galido said the military needs a total amount of P376.82 billion to fully implement the remaining 84 projects in the Horizon 1 and 2.
But only P125.6 billion is the programmed allocation for utilization from general appropriations and remittances from the Bases Conversion and Development Authority.
He said that in 2019, funds were sufficient to support the remaining requirements of the year through the rescheduling of other projects.
The AFP modernization is divided into three phases or horizons. Horizon 1 was implemented from 2013 to 2017; Horizon 2 runs from 2018 to 2022; while Horizon 3 is from 2023 to 2028.
The defense department is recommending an increase in the P25 billion yearly modernization budget from general appropriations.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told lawmakers that while the amount is “better than nothing,” he admitted that it is not enough.
“We have been asking for reconsideration yearly. We ask for P60 billion, but it always goes back to P25 billion,” he said.
If the budget is increased to 2 percent of GDP as they have been pushing for a while now, Lorenzana said they would no longer need to ask for a separate budget of P25 billion yearly.
“Hindi ma-sustain ito. Palaging pumupunta para manghingi and sometimes the DBM (Department of Budget and Management) will not grant the request,” he said.
(This is unsustainable. We always have to go to DBM to ask for funds and sometimes they do not grant the request.) /kga
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