Press Release
August 7, 2023

Opening Statement: PDIDA (Committee on National Defense Hearing)
07 August 2023

Mr. Chairman, I would like to thank your Committee for taking up the Philippine Defense Industry Development Act and all the bills that are being tackled here today, which I have been strongly advocating for, as a key measure in support of our ongoing efforts to build a credible and concrete defense program.

Amidst growing national concern over our sovereignty, it is very timely that we now consider the merits of revitalizing our Self-Reliant Defense Posture program and building a local defense industry that would supply the needs of our Armed Forces.

While we value our defense cooperation with our foreign allies, we cannot afford to rely on them entirely. Overreliance on our allies leaves us on the back foot--always waiting, and always dependent on what they will supply us with.

Nakakaawa po na kailangan pa natin halos manglimos mula sa ibang bansa, para mabigyan ng armas at bala ang ating mga sundalo. 'Yan po ang nangyari noong Marawi, we are very familiar with that.

At ayoko na pong maulit ang ganyang eksena kung saan umikot pa ang ating Presidente sa iba't ibang bansa para humingi ng bala at armas sa ating mga kababayan--na binubuwis ang buhay nila para sa ating demokrasya.

Our brave men and women of the armed forces deserve more, and deserve better.

We are among the top importers of arms here in the ASEAN, spending $338 million USD in arms imports in 2021--next only to Singapore (at $361 million) and Myanmar (at $394 million).

Unlike Singapore, however, we have a great deal of resources at our disposal. And unlike Myanmar, we are not operating under military rule. So why is our arms importation nearly as costly as theirs?

A closer comparison would be Indonesia, which in 2021 allocated 3.9 percent of its overall government spending towards military expenditure-- not far from the 3.8 percent that we directed towards the military. And yet Indonesia's arms imports came in at only $68 million USD, a far cry from our $338 million.

Ibig pong sabihin, malaki po ang manufacturing industry ng Indonesia sa arms at armaments, at maliit lang ang iniimport nila.

Indonesia's defense industry has been growing so exponentially, in fact, that the Indonesian government is now expecting to join the world's 50 top defense companies by next year.

We need to be able to produce our own needs, on our own time. We have the resources. We have the manpower--and the skills. And I am quite hopeful that we also now have the political will to push this through.

And in the LEDAC, we discussed this with the President, and he is really very keen on coming up with our own defense industry.

With budget season upon us, we are going to have to once again address the still glaring gaps in the modernization of our Armed Forces. We are of course committed to increasing the budget of the AFP, but we also have to look ahead beyond their needs over the next year, and into the future of our overall defense strategy.

That is why PDIDA should come in, as a vital move towards a truly self- reliant defense program.

And to be honest, Mr. Chairman, and to look at different countries. The United States, in my personal experience, when they needed a side-arm, and the Beretta 92 had won that bid, they required Beretta to set up offices in Atlanta, Georgia, where they built the facilities there to supply their military with sidearms.

They did the same for SIG, when SIG won after the Beretta was contract was terminated, it was SIG SAUER. Coming from Europe, they had to build their plants within the United States to supply their troops with these pistols.

Before I end, Mr. Chairman, I would like to mention also the National Defense Act, which is in the agenda as well. This bill is complementary to the PDIDA and to the AFP Modernization Program. Thus, it is imperative that we pass this bill as well.

As a matter of fact, I would like to thank the President for discussing the amendments to the Procurement Act, because what is the cheapest is not necessarily the best, we all know that, especially for defense. You may get Mickey Mouse planes, we're going to see them crash day in and day out. So not necessary that the cheapest is the best.

We must give priority to those who build their armaments--apples to apples 'yan. When you build a rifle here in the Philippines, and we import a rifle from the United States or Israel or other countries, as long as these Philippine-made rifles pass the stringent tests and requirements, they should be given priority because they were made in the Philippines, and the access is much easier for our troops. And of course we will be supporting our economic agenda of the President.

So once again, thank you for bringing these up in this Committee, and you will have our full support on plenary for the passage of this measure.

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