Leftist lawmaker vows to scrutinize 2016 AFP Modernization budget: West Philippine Sea issue not a ‘justification’

Leftist lawmaker Terry Ridon, representative of Kabataan Party-list in Congress, says national defense budget for 2016 will not get a free pass in Congress as it will undergo scrutiny and will be debated on. “We have yet to see the actual budget proposal, but based on what the Department of National Defense has announced yesterday, the AFP Modernization Program will get a substantial bump in the 2016 budget, from the current P20 billion to P75 billion,” the lawmaker said as quoted by Philippine News Agency.

AFP Modernization Program received a budget of PhP20.0 billion from the allotment of AFP General Headquarters this year.

“That’s a substantial increase, and if DND and the AFP think this proposal can get a free pass from Congress because they’re using the West Philippine Sea issue as justification, then they’re wrong,” Ridon added.

Part of the 2016 AFP modernization budget will be used to acquire two frigates, two twin-engine long range patrol aircraft, three aerial surveillance radars, and pay for the amortization of 12 FA-50 light fighters.

“While the DND is keen on emphasizing the need to strengthen our nation’s maritime defense, we have to put this budget request in context. Since the enactment of the AFP Modernization Act in 1995, Congress has been appropriating billions for military modernization annually. It’s already 2015, and we still have weak maritime defense and creaking World War 2 era ships. So we need to ask the DND and the AFP to report on where the billions sunk into the modernization program went,” Ridon said.

“The AFP is still reeling from the Php1.2 billion defective chopper deal. And when it comes to financial accountability, the military is not exactly a shining example,” the leftist youth lawmaker said. “This is why we cannot just let the military to get its budget approved in toto. Every item will be scrutinized and debated on, and we’ll leave no stone unturned.”

In the 2016 proposed national budget, Department of National Defense (DND) is getting a PhP27.5 billion increase from its current budget of PhP144.5 billion. Giving the defense department with PhP172 billion 2016 budget.