Press Release
February 26, 2010

Villar vows big budget for AFP modernization

Nacionalista Party standard-bearer Manny Villar yesterday described as pitifully inadequate the P5 billion yearly budget for Armed Forces modernization as he vowed to bankroll a weapons upgrade from dividends of an anti-corruption drive.

Villar said the Philippines loses P1.92 billion to corruption a year, but he believes "if we can get 10 percent from an anticorruption drive the amount will be enough to fund the modernization program of the military." In addition, Villar said, "if we can curb this purported corruption in the military by at least 50 percent, we can generate savings that could be channeled to the purchase of the basic needs of the soldiers in the field like combat boots, combat rations and ammunition," he said.

Villar said he is disturbed by the allegations that a big chunk of the amount intended for the soldiers' needs "goes to the pockets of some unscrupulous military officials."

He said there had been reports in the past that ammunitions of the soldiers neither fired nor hit their targets.

He explained that the present level of arms spending in the defense sector does not allow for the purchase of new equipment, only "the patching up the AFP's antiquated land, air and water assets."

In particular, Villar cited the ageing fleet of the Philippine Air Force whose airplanes have been dubbed as "flying coffins" and "widow makers" resulting from crashes that have claimed the lives of many soldiers and civilians.

If elected, Villar said he would tuck in the annual budget he will send to Congress a "meaty" AFP modernization fund "that will be promptly released and properly spent."

"I am thinking of allocating 10 percent of the annual VAT revenue for a replacement program of military ships, aircraft and other hardware," he said.

This translates, he explained, to a minimum P15 billion "annual fund to replace flying and floating coffins with modern assets."

"In addition, we can explore barter arrangements in which Philippine-made products can be exchanged for military hardware," Villar said.

Villar stressed that the government should explore at other sources of military hardware, "and not just look at that giant arms mall that is the United States."

Villar said he believes that streamlining AFP expenditures will result in savings can be re-channeled for its modernization.

"I have been told that there are ways in which we can cut multi-billion-peso annual POL (petroleum oil and lubricant) budget and send whatever is saved to the men on the field," he said.

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