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Congress approves 2016 budget: Defense allocation funding AFP modernization included

The House of Representatives on Friday approved on third and final reading the proposed PHP 3.002 trillion national budget for 2016 that has been touted to continue to expand the national economy and sustain governance and budget reforms that the administration of President Benigno S. Aquino III has instituted in the last five years. The approval of the proposed 2016 national expenditure program on Friday was made possible after Malacañang certified the measure as urgent. The certification allowed the chamber to pass the measure on second and third reading on the same day.

With its passage at the House of Representatives, the proposed 2016 budget would now be transmitted to the Senate. House Bill 6132, or the General Appropriations Bill of 2016, was passed in plenary session by nominal voting – with 230 lawmakers voting for its approval, 20 against and no abstentions.

Next year’s proposed budget is 15.2 (PHP 396 billion) percent higher from the current year’s budget of PHP 2.606 trillion. By departments, the Department of Education (DepEd) again garnered the highest allocation with PHP 435.8 billion – an increase of 15.4 percent from this year’s budget of PHP 377.7 billion. The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) got the second highest allocation with PHP 394.5 billion or an increase of PHP 90.4 billion (29.7 percent) from this year’s budget of PHP 304.1 billion.

The Department of National Defense (DND) came in third at PHP 172.7 billion with an increase of PHP 18.6 billion than this year’s allocated budget. The defense allocation will fund the modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

Rounding up the top ten in highest allocations are the Departments of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) with PHP 154.5 billion; Health (DOH) with PHP 128.4 billion; Social Welfare and Development (DWSD) with PHP 104.2 billion; Agriculture (DA) with PHP 93.4 billion; Finance (DOF) with PHP 53.3 billion; Transportation and Communications (DOTC) with PHP 49.3 billion; and Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) with PHP 25.8 billion.

National Defense gets 3rd largest pie in next year’s budget

The Aquino government proposed a PhP2.6 trillion budget for 2015 which is 15.1 percent higher from the current year’s PhP2.265 trillion budget. “Our proposed spending program is an expression of the President’s [Benigno S. Aquino III] unerring commitment to bring inclusive socio-economic development to the people,” Budget and Management Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad said.

Social services gets the largest pie in the said 2015 budget which according to DBM chief, shows the current “administration’s continuing pursuit of its antipoverty goals.” This include provisions for basic education and universal health care.

Economic services also have a major share with PhP700.2 billion allocated fund towards this sector aiming for the President’s inclusive growth campaign.

Top 3 departments with big share in next year’s budget are the Department of Education (DepEd) with P367.1 billion, P303.2 billion for Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and P144.5 billion goes to Department of Nation Defense (DND).

Anti-China riots in Vietanam killed at least 16 Chinese, injured hundreds

In an anti-China protests leading to riots in Vietnam, more than 20 were reportedly dead sixteen of which were described as Chinese nationals and five Vietnamese. These killings happened at industrial zones in Vietnam where significant number of workers are Chinese.

Moreover, hundreds were hurt, mostly Chinese, in the said riot. Vietnamese were in rage burning buildings in the said zones in Binh Duong and Dong Nai provinces due to positioning of a Chinese oil rig in a disputed sea.

A Taiwanese owned airline have already added flights to Vietnam to cater individuals wanting to leave the country. Hundreds of Chinese nationals have also left Vietnam securing their lives through air or by land to Cambodia.

This incident in Vietnam may escalate heated standoff between Chinese and Vietnamese ships arrround the oil rig. If extended, Vietnam’s image as a country safe for investment will be tainted.

Air Force reactivating 2 OV-10 attack aircraft

In line with its efforts to acquire more aircraft, the Philippine Air Force (PAF) has announced it is allocating the sum of PhP16,490,363.56 for acquisition of spare parts needed for the reactivation of two Rockwell OV-10 “Bronco” attack aircraft.

These planes are OV-10 with tail numbers 636 and 402.

Pre-bid conference is set on Oct. 21 at 1 p.m., PAF Procurement Center Conference Room, Villamor Air Base, Pasay City.

On the other hand, submission and opening of bids is on November 13 at 9 a.m. at the same venue.

The OV-10s are the PAF’s premier ground attack aircraft. Around six to eight units are still in service.

Japan provides PHL’s first real-time tsunami warning equipment

Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) handed over to Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) this week the Philippines’ first real time tsunami warning equipment to help boost the Philippines’ disaster resiliency. Japan’s Ambassador to the Philippines H.E. Kazuhide Ishikawa, JICA Chief Representative in the Philippines Noriaki Niwa, Department of Science and Technology Asst. Sec. Raymund Liboro and PHIVOLCS Director Dr. Renato Solidum Jr. were present at the turn-over ceremony in MetroManila.

Amounting to one billion yen, the equipment is a major component of Japan’s grant-aid program that aims to help establish the first tsunami warning system in the Philippines using tsunami wave detectors, data transmission stations and computer-aided database development.

“Japan and the Philippines share common experiences when it comes to disasters so by sharing technology and expertise, JICA would like to continue helping the Philippines better prepare for disasters and other emergencies,” Niwa said.

The equipment is part of an earlier support to enhance Philippine resiliency through various related disaster risk reduction management equipment. In June 2014, eight pumping cars were given to Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) as part of the assistance.

The Philippines at present has limited information on tsunami risks generated by earthquakes. The equipment will help promote more comprehensive tsunami preparation measures like evacuations using accurate earthquake analysis.

Aside from the tsunami warning system, JICA is also providing PHIVOLCS an earthquake intensity meter as well as broadband strong motion seismometers to strengthen existing earthquake information system. Using timely information from the intensity meter will help enhance disaster operations immediately after the earthquake.

“The technology will support the Philippines in disseminating earthquake information with high accuracy and provide adequate warning to organizations and communities involved in disaster management,” Niwa noted.

The prototype of the Philippine Earthquake Intensity Scale calculation formula, the national standard in the Philippines, will be also installed in the earthquake warning equipment. This makes it possible to accurately calculate the earthquake’s magnitude and identify damages.

Singapore delivers mail using world’s first drone for postal service

Singapore Post has successfully delivered a mail using an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) for point-to-point recipient-authenticated mail delivery, the company said today in a statement. It added that this is the first time in the world a postal service has successfully used an UAV. “A last mile mail and packet drone delivery trial was successfully completed between Lorong Halus and Pulau Ubin,” SingPost said.

“The drone which was built upon the Pixhawk Steadidrone platform was by IDA (Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore) Labs to meet the new conceptual delivery platform from SingPost, and tailored for use in a challenging environment like Singapore,” SingPost explained.

“The successful conclusion of this trial shows how SingPost is thinking out of the box and its willingness to expand its traditional mail delivery model in innovative ways,” IDA Managing Director Jacqueline Poh said.

“Although it will be a while before it is viable for drone mail delivery to take off in Singapore, taking into consideration commercial and safety factors; this first step by SingPost and IDA demonstrates what Singapore is trying out with our Smart Nation vision – to have the various parts of our ecosystem collaborate, experiment with new ways of doing things, and in the process, literally aim for the sky with new technology,” she further said.

US Navy’s new railgun assures victory against an adversary

“We want the American public to know now that we have a gun system that frankly will be so effective and affordable that now our adversaries will know – they’ll know before they even try to do something to our nation, that they’ll never win,” US Rear Adm. Matt Klunder said.

“There’s quite a bit of secret sauce in these gun systems in the development. We’ve protected that,” he added.

“It can shoot down ballistic missiles. It can shoot down very advanced cruise missiles. It can shoot down fast moving aircraft. It can shoot down fast moving ships. It can even support soldiers and Marines at 100 miles on shore,” Klunder emphasized.

The railgun is an electromagnetic-powered launcher that can send a 23-pound projectile (shell) at a speed of Mach 7 or 8,600 kilometers per hour. It can even take down small targets only by impact.

It’s projectiles contains navigational electronics and only costs about $25,000 each.

“I can store hundreds and hundreds of these projectiles on our ships. I can defend our ships. I can defend our nation. It’s extremely safe, and it’s extremely effective,” Klunder said.

“The electromagnetic railgun represents an incredible new offensive capability for the U.S. Navy,” Rear Adm. Bryant Fuller, the Navy’s chief engineer, said in a statement.

“This capability will allow us to effectively counter a wide range of threats at a relatively low cost, while keeping our ships and sailors safer by removing the need to carry as many high-explosive weapons.”

Military gets USD 1-M worth of equipment for chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear threats

The Philippine military’s capability to deal with chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosives threats received a significant boost after the United States donated USD 1-million worth of CBRNE equipment on Thursday. The equipment is sufficient to equip a platoon of specialized troops, according to Lt. Gen. Edgar Fallorina, Armed Forces of the Philippines deputy chief-of-staff, who formally received the donation from US Army representatives.

“In terms of really accepting the equipment, this is the first time, but this capability development has been going for quite some time,” he said.

“We started out with a small number. Now we’re having a platoon-size with the corresponding equipment and we really thank the US government for the support,” Fallorina stressed

The AFP deputy chief added the training and equipage of troops should be replicated in other units of the military until it has a sizeable number that can deal with these kinds of threat.

“This will be replicated in the other major services until such time that we have a substantial number of personnel really qualified for CBRNE activities,” he said.

Fallorina, however, could not say if the military would ever deal with threats posed by non-conventional weapons, except for disasters.

He said that soldiers or those trained in dealing with CBRNE would be the first responders should threats arise from these types of weapons.

“They are highly trained and they basically are mobile. We have the equipment as you see. It can be transported either by land through the M-35, and if required in other island parts of the country, it can be transported through the C-130s,” Fallorina said.

China may impose trade embargo against Philippines

Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Andres Bautista said Wednesday the poll body has decided to transfer the manufacture of optical mark reader (OMR) machines from Suzhou, China to Taiwan “because of current conditions between the Philippine and China.” The poll body has decided to purchase 77,000 new optical mark reader (OMR) machines and lease of new 23,000 new OMR machines from Smartmatic for the 2016 elections.

Smartmatic project manager Marlon Garcia said that it was five percent more expensive for Smartmatic to transfer the manufacturing of voting machines to Taiwan.

“It was going to be more expensive for us, and we absorbed the cost for that, in order to increase the comfort of the commission on the manufacturing of the machines,” Garcia noted.

He, however, said that the Smartmatic “cannot blame the commission,” for its decision because of the sudden turn of events. Last August, the Comelec announced that the voting machines would be made in Suzhou, China.

During the hearing of House committee on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms on government preparation for the 2016 elections, Comelec Commissioner Robert Lim alleged that there might be an attempt by China to possibly “sabotage” the country’s 2016 presidential elections.

“We don’t want the complications. Another reason why we want all deliveries of machines by January, because we are anticipating the release of the arbitration decision that might affect the elections. So we don’t want that, we want to avoid the complications,” Lim said.

The Philippines expects the United Nations Arbitral Tribunal at The Hague, Netherlands to rule on territorial dispute over the West Philippine Sea early next year.

“Once China decides to make a trade embargo there will be no trade, so any product made in China will not be coming in the Philippines. There’s a lot of possibilities,” Lim said.

Transfer of Korean corvette to Philippine Navy to proceed with ‘best support’

South Korean Defense Minister Han Min-koo confirmed at a press conference at Armed Forces of the Philippines headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City Monday that the transfer of military equipment including a Pohang-class corvette to Philippine military is going on as planned.

“The relevant assets we are transferring to the Philippines is going as planned and we will give the best of support,” Minister Han said as quoted by Philippine News Agency.

South Korea sees the donation as a small token compared with the great contribution of Filipino troops during the Korean War.

It is expected that the said warship will arrive with intact armament and sensors.

The South Korean government has committed a corvette, a landing craft utility and 16 rubber boats.

The landing craft utility and rubber boats have already arrived May this year.