Military modernization program stalled again
The Armed Forces of the Philippines would likely fail to meet its target to complete the second stage of a capability upgrade program by the end of the year, according to a top military official.
The military’s modernization program has undergone several incarnations since the first component was conceived in 1995 and it was supposed to complete the penultimate stage, called Horizon 2, of its latest version this year. Its third and final phase, or Horizon 3, was supposed to start next year and last until 2028.
“The Horizon 2 objective will not be attained by the end of 2022… The fund sources of AFP modernization are very limited,” AFP deputy chief of staff Vice Adm. Rommel Anthony Reyes told senators in a committee hearing on Wednesday.
The second horizon, which envisioned the military to become “mission capable for territorial defense in the West Philippine Sea,” started in 2018 and would end this December. The first horizon from 2013 to 2017 was for the acquisition of equipment mostly for internal security operations.
Horizon 1 and 2 projects needed a budget of P316 billion, as P212 billion had already been released from the overall budget requirement of P529 billion. For Horizon 2 with a total of 102 projects worth P432 billion, there were still 40 unfunded projects worth P299 billion, Reyes said.
Fifteen of these Horizon 2 projects worth P32 billion have been completed, while 42 projects worth P98 billion have been so far funded and under implementation. Some of the projects signed for Horizon 2 include the acquisition of corvettes, offshore patrol vessels and combat utility helicopters.
Reyes said it will take 13 years to complete the funding requirements for Horizon 1 and 2 projects if the annual allocation of P25 billion to the AFP modernization stays unchanged.
The AFP could only implement new additional projects starting 2026 if the government will not provide additional budget “over and above the annual fund requirement of the contracted multiyear projects.”
There are also significant delays in meeting the Horizon 2 objective of a minimum credible defense posture as most of the Horizon 1 and 2 projects are “geared towards filling up the gaps of the capability requirements for internal security operations,” Reyes said.
The acquisition of “game changer projects” such as the missile system, multirole fighters and C4ISTAR (command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, targeting acquisition and reconnaissance) would be a huge leap to meet the second horizon objectives, he said.
With the current status of the AFP modernization program, the Horizon 3, which was envisioned to focus on external defense capabilities, would be beyond the Revised AFP Modernization Program timeline, Reyes said.
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