Lorenzana: Budget constraints delay BrahMos deal
MANILA, Philippines — A potential deal to acquire the lethal BrahMos supersonic cruise missile is being hampered by budget constraints, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Monday.
The coronavirus pandemic had delayed the procurement plans, which was said to be in “advanced” stages. Lorenzana said last year that a deal for the world’s fastest supersonic cruise missile jointly developed by India and Russia could be signed by early 2020.
“Dahil nga sa pandemic na ito, nawalan tayo ng perang pambili dyan. Syempre unahin muna natin yung sa mga tao kesa sa cruise missile so wala pa. Meron nang negotiation, it’s already in the advanced stage of procurement process pero na-stop muna dahil nga sa pag-funding,” he told reporters.
“Yung procurement process nga natigil dahil wala nga tayong pambili,” he said.
(Because of the pandemic, we lost the budget to procure it. We need to prioritize our citizens instead of the cruise missile, so there are no funds yet. Negotiations were underway, it was already in the advanced stages of the procurement process, but it stopped because of funding issues… The procurement process stopped because we no longer had funds for it.)
Other modernization projects by the Philippine military to build a modest credible defense capability had been stalled by the pandemic.
Apart from the Philippines, countries like Thailand and Vietnam have reportedly shown interest to purchase the world’s fastest supersonic cruise missile – which has yet to see the first foreign country to acquire this capability.
The missile system, which can be used for coastal defense and ground attack, would boost the Philippines’ firepower capability in the face of territorial threats and China’s assertiveness in the South China Sea.
“Whether we will use it there in the South China Sea, eh sa sa atin naman defensive lang naman ito e, hindi naman nating gagamiting offensive weapons itong Brahmos,” he said.
(As to whether we will use it there in the South China Sea, we will use it for defensive purposes and not as offensive weapons.)
Hindustan Times earlier reported that a deal would be signed during a summit between President Rodrigo Duterte and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi early next year. The Philippines has yet to confirm if such meeting is scheduled.
“Will it be one of the topics between President Duterte and Prime Minister Modi? Hindi ko pa alam kung ilalagay natin dun,” Lorenzana said.
(Will it be part of the agenda between President Duterte and Prime Minister Modi? I don’t know if it would be included.)
India has reportedly offered a $100 million line of credit to the Philippines for the weapons system purchase, but a government source privy to the deal said it could be more.
Lorenzana, however, raised a concern that the next administration after Duterte, which is in two years’ time, could be burdened with the possible loan agreement.
“Ang problema dyan kasi multi-year yan eh. Kung uutang tayo ngayon at ayaw ni Presidente kasi na may mamanahin yung papasok na mga utang na hindi naman nila ginawa,” he said.
“So we are actually caught between two dilemmas: Papaano ang gagawin natin, gusto natin bumili wala naman tayong pera. At umutang, baka naman tayo mabatikos ng susunod na administrasyon,” he added.
(The problem is, it’s a multi-year obligation. The President does not want us to enter into loan agreements that would be inherited by the administration after him… So we are caught with two dilemmas: How do we buy one when we don’t have money, and what if we acquire one through a loan, but the next administration might criticize us.)
Earlier this month, Manila and New Delhi officials held an online meeting of their commission on bilateral cooperation, co-chaired by Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. and External Affairs Minister of Republic of India Dr. S. Jaishankar.
Both officials agreed to strengthen defense engagement and maritime cooperation between the two countries, particularly in military training and education, capacity building, regular good-will visits, and procurement of defense equipment.