New AFP chief says missile system project to proceed on second horizon of modernization

Contrary to some reports, the Philippine Army (PA)’s Php 6.5-billion shore-based missile system (SBMS) program was merely rescheduled and not removed as earlier claimed. This was stressed by newly-appointed Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff Lt. Gen. Hernando DCA Iriberri on Friday.

“(The SBMS project) was not removed, we merely requested that it be put on the second horizon (2018 to 2022) of the AFP modernization program. We did not scrap it, we just requested that it be moved,” he said in Filipino.

The SBMS will be acquired to beef up the external defense capabilities of the PA and not aimed at any particular nation. Sources said the SBMS consists of 12 launchers, trailers and tracking systems and missiles that could be fired to neutralize ground and naval targets.

And in its place, force protection equipment, squad designated rifles and modern radios.

The new AFP chief said the decision to move the SBMS project to the second horizon came about from his stint as Philippine Army (PA) chief which lasted from Feb. 7, 2014 until July this year. During that time, Iriberri said that he had the opportunity to visit Army units nationwide and talked with their leaders. During those meetings, he learned that 280 soldiers were killed in action while another 908 were wounded.

Iriberri said those fatalities and casualties would have not been incurred had these Army personnel possess adequate force protection equipment like body armor and helmets

“And as PA commanding general, I requested that a re-prioritization, remember that the AFP modernization first horizon has budget of Php 95 billion, with the PA just getting Php 9.5 billion which is barely 10 percent, I understand this as the Navy and Air Force’s (modernization projects) are capital intensive. But out of that Php9.5 billion, Php6.5 billion will go to the SBMS with only the remaining Php3 billion to upgrade our war-fighting capability and that does not include the acquisition of force protection equipment,” he added.

With that gap, Iriberri said that he then requested the senior leadership to look into this and prioritize first the acquisition of the force protection equipment and other essential items.

“That is the reason why I requested for a re-prioritization because I wanted to provide our soldiers with the necessary force protection equipment in doing their duty, regardless on whether it is for external or internal defense missions,” the newly-appointed AFP chief said.

Iriberri also clarified that prior to its re-prioritization, the SBMS project was just a proposal, adding what they did was merely to submit a counter-proposal which he believed was in the best interest of soldiers.

He vehemently denied claims that he was getting a fat commission for pushing for the acquisition of force protection equipment, adding that such allegations were pure lies.