Securing PH sovereignty calls for self-reliance in defense – Zubiri
MANILA, Philippines — It’s time for the Philippines to strive for a more self-reliant defense posture, particularly by building a local arms industry, especially with the growing concern for securing the country’s sovereignty, Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri said on Monday.
Zubiri made this remark in his opening speech at the hearing of the Committee on National Defense and Security, Peace, Unification and Reconciliation on bills seeking to enhance the capability and streamline the Department of National Defense and its bureaus.
Over-reliance on our allies leaves us on the back foot — always waiting, and always dependent on what they will supply us with,” Zubiri said.
Citing what happened in the siege of Marawi in 2017, Zubiri said that the Philippines had to “almost beg” other countries to give Filipino soldiers weapons and ammunition.
“I don’t want that scenario to happen again, where our President had to go around to several countries to ask for ammunition and weapons for our countrymen who were risking their lives for our democracy. Our brave men and women of the Armed Forces deserve more — and deserve better,” he said.
According to Zubiri, the Philippines is among the top importers of firearms in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, spending $338 million in arms imports in 2021 alone.
“A closer comparison would be Indonesia, which in 2021 allocated 3.9 percent of its overall government spending towards military expenditure — not far from the 3.8 percent that we directed towards the military. And yet Indonesia’s arms imports came in at only $68 million USD, a far cry from our $338 million,” Zubiri pointed out.
According to him, this means that Indonesia’s manufacturing industry is big on arms and armaments so the country only imports a small amount.
This prompted the senator to stress the need for the Philippines to be able to “produce its own needs on its own time,”
“We have the resources. We have the manpower — and the skills. And I am quite hopeful that we also now have the political will to push this through. We discussed this with the President, and he is really very keen on coming up with our own defense industry,” he said.
Zubiri vowed to address the remaining gaps in the modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, committing to increasing its budget.
He added that the Senate, working with the Marcos administration, would look into the future of the Philippines’ overall defense strategy.