Press Release
August 27, 2008

Transcript of press briefing of Sen Rodolfo G Biazon

Laurel Room

After Defense Hearing on Combat Pay

Combat Pay/ C130 crash/ Ramadan Ceasefire/MILF in Lanao

Combat Pay - I had terminated my hearing on it, I am creating a Technical working group to define the conditions upon which we will grant combat pay to the soldiers, how much will it be, is there a need for different levels of the combat pay as it back in 1985 when the combat pay levels was P120 for the first level, P180 for the second level and P240 for the third level and the third level would refer to those out there in the frontline like the platoons, rifle companies, battalions even up to brigade... second level would be those in the brigade headquarters or division head quarters third level would be to the area commands level... we will have to define that.. we need to see to it that the soldiers risking their lives in the frontlines, their interest is considered.

Ramadan ceasefire - I will leave that policy questions to the policy makers in the Exec Dept. Ramadan should not be disturbed in the Muslim Communities..and if they celebrate it outside the Muslim communities better yet... but if we allow these criminals even acc to Muslim leaders that crossed the threshold between a rebel. Criminal to terrorist..remember some Muslims are asking that Bravo and Kato be executed... this Muslim leader is even asking if Bravo claims not to be a participant in these depredatory attacks he execute his people who committed the same... this sensitive question I leave to the policy makers in the Executive Dept.. I would suggest to the Exec Dept that Muslim leaders be consulted in the ARMM area... Ustadz, Ulama ...

C-130 Crash - anything that we say about the cause of the crash of the C130 in Davao is speculative because there can be any number of possibilities - pilot error, mechanical problem, weather, sabotage, hostile action from any of the armed groups. I would ask that everyone wait for an official report from the agencies, the only problem is since the aircraft sank to waters of 100 fathoms or 600 feet, this would require the use of a submersible that is not available in our government. It is important we recover parts of the aircraft, if not the whole fuselage, engines everything else..unfortunately the aircraft has no blackbox where we can make deductions if recover it... its going to be difficult to make conclusions as to the cause... although some leads can be made by asking witness that may have seen... there is a report that one man saw the aircraft flying low overhead, it nosedived... that is a very important statement of a witness... if indeed there was an explosion while the aircraft was airborne, or when the aircraft impacted on the water... let us wait for official reports from the proper incident... we lost 50% of the Phil Air Force transport asset, although there are still 3 aircraft that can be made to fly provided we put in the funding that will be required for it to be rendered into flight status... we do not know how much, so I asked the Phil Air Force, when I get the briefing from the AFP on the Modernization Program, we might know... if it will require a supplemental budget, I would support a proposal for a supplemental budget for us to increase the transport capability of the PAF for C130 planes...

The countries that I know who have submersible equipment are the USA Great Britain, France, Germany... I do not know how much it will cost, because it will cost, unless it comes as a voluntary assistance, I would assume the Defense Department is exploring that possibility... we need to recover the fuselage, engine and other parts to determine the cause of the crash.

When we enacted the AFP Modernization into law when the dollar exchange was US$1 to P25, the estimate was we would need P331Billion, so at present exchange rate, we would have to double it about P700 Billion... according to the law there was supposed to be generated a trust fund of P50 Billion by the end of the 5th year by the end of the passage of the law... that was in 1999, up to now 9 years after... we have just managed to generate a total of P20.4 Billion. President Ramos did not release anything, Pres Erap released P5.4 Billion. Pres Arroyo if we grant the asking for the Fiscal Yr 2009 will have a total P15 Billion to be release... P10 Billion had been release by Pres Arroyo, she is asking for P5 Billion next year...

Acquisition from AFP Modernization include radios for communication, two landing ship vehicles that could transport vehicles and troops for the Phil Navy... 20 helicopters from terms of the total need for modernization is only a small percentage of the needs... we need more... even if addressing only our internal security needs, we need about 50% of the total cost of modernizing the AFP.

Yung tagal ng aircraft is a negligible factor as long as you have proper maintenance provided, the C130 was manufactured in 1971 acquired in 1983... so its not even that long, the jumbo jet is longer... some aircraft fly for more than 50 years...

MILF - I am asking the Defense establishment that the reported over run bases of the MILF should not be given back until after the control of the whole MILF forces by their leaders is clarified. We can not allow the MILF to again do what they did in Sarrangani, North Cotabato, Lanao del Norte, by giving back the bases where they can mount these depredatory acts.

The AFP should consider occupying and controlling all of these so called base camps that they have so called occupied. I would refer specifically to Lanao del Norte. The MILF staged their depredatory attacks from the upland areas of Lanao de Norte and in order to protect the coastal towns of Kulambugan, Maigok, Kauswagan, Linamon... the AFP must control the area between the upland and the coastal towns of Lanao del Norte... they must occupy and control these areas... but if we do this, there is a need for the AFP to increase their manpower, I would support a move for a partial mobilization of the national reserves , I am referring to the CAFGU.

The CAFGU are easier to mobilize, demobilize in the event of the situation returning back to normal, it has no future cost in terms of pensions and retirement benefits..I am asking the AFP that in the presentation I am asking to the Defense Committee next week to report on the status of the AFP Modernization and the proposed response to the developing situation in Mindanao. Closed door.

Message to soldiers: Do your job, your government will try to provide what you need for you to do your job, within the capability of the government to provide.

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