Press Release
September 28, 2008

Military told to justify its proposal for add'l Pl0 billion for 2009

Minority Leader Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) today said the minority bloc in the Senate is sympathetic to the request of defense officials to augment the budget of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to beef up its fighting capability against insurgencies and fast- track the goal to attain permanent peace.

Pimentel said they will thoroughly look into the proposal submitted by Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro, Jr. for an additional Pl0 billion for the AFP budget for 2009, which amounts to a l7.7 percent increase in the P56.5 billion already earmarked for the military under the national budget submitted by Malacañang to Congress.

He pointed out that the eight-man Senate minority bloc had in fact earlier urged the executive branch to submit a supplementary budget to enable the AFP to purchase much-needed firearms and to recruit additional troops following the outbreak of armed hostilities in several areas in Central and Muslim Mindanao as an offshoot of the government's decision not to sign the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) last month.

"We want to look at the specific requests of the AFP in terms of the armaments, equipment and other logistics, as well as manpower that they need," the minority leader said.

According to Secretary Teodoro, the additional funding will be used to recruit more soldiers, repair ships and helicopters and buy more ammunition.

Pimentel, however, said that Pl0 billion is too big an augmentation fund for one department or instrumentality of government. He said it would be very difficult to grant the full amount requested considering that Congress is not allowed by the Constitution to increase the national budget beyond the level proposed by the President.

He pointed out that whatever extra fund that can be infused into the AFP will be derived from the amounts deducted from other agencies or appropriation items in the budget bill.

For this reason, Pimentel said it may be more practical for Malacañang to propose a supplemental budget for the AFP for the current fiscal year. He said the only question is whether the House of Representatives and the Senate can still accommodate the passage of the supplemental budget since they are now both deliberating on the proposed Pl.4 trillion national budget for 2009.

"But if an additional funding is extremely necessary to meet essential expenses of the AFP, I believe that the senators and congressmen will exert extra efforts to approve a supplemental budget. That, I suppose, will depend on the justification to be given by Malacañang and defense officials," he said.

Pimentel noted for instance, the urgency of providing funds for the repair of some cargo aircraft after one of the two C-130 cargo planes of the Philippine Air Force (PAF) crashed into the sea in Southern Mindanao last month while airlifting soldiers and relief goods for people displaced by the armed conflict.

He said the executive branch will also have to set aside funds for the purchase of a new or second-hand military cargo plane to solve the PAF's cargo transport problem.

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