AFP Modernization, West Philippine Sea Updates, and National Security: Sen. Lacson Chairs the 2020 Budget Hearing for the DND

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[Video Courtesy: Senate PRIB]

At the hearing on the 2020 budget of the Department of National Defense (DND), Sen. Lacson cited the need to revisit the AFP Modernization Program for the country to achieve its goal of a minimum credible defense posture, and asked if the DND should get compensation from telcos that set up facilities inside military camps.

Lacson also pushed for a sustainable long-term program that would provide for the pension requirements of uniformed personnel. He inquired about the status of a new infantry battalion that would fight terrorism and similar threats in the Mindanao area.

The DND is seeking a budget of P258.35 billion for 2020, including P119.118B for personnel services; P69.704B for pension; P40.701B for MOOE; and P28.831B for capital outlay.



Sen. Lacson said the Revised AFP Modernization Program may need some adjustments so it can meet its goal of achieving a minimum credible defense posture. “How far are we from reaching that goal (of a) minimum credible defense posture? Kung compared to our ASEAN neighbors we are near bottom,” he said.

Iba na labanan ngayon. Pati sa intelligence, it’s less human intelligence, more signal or electronic intelligence. Have we progressed along that line?” he added.

DND Sec. Delfin Lorenzana responded they have not quite reached such a status and that “we have to catch up.”

Sen. Lacson said there may be a need to revisit the AFP modernization law to adapt to the present situation. “We may need to revisit to adjust to your requirements and adapt to the present situation. Kasi hindi pa rin ganito ka-intense ang situation sa West Philippine Sea when we passed RA 10349. Maybe we should make some adjustments to conform to such a situation.”

Meanwhile, Lacson asked the DND if the Philippines has a counter-strategy to the Chinese military’s ‘cabbage strategy’ at the West Philippine Sea. “The Chinese military has been quite open in announcing the application of their cabbage strategy. I’d like to find out if we have a counter-strategy. Layer upon layer until magutom ang troops until they would not want to go back there anymore. Are we encountering problems in our supply?” Sec. Lorenzana replied supplies have been unimpeded by Chinese vessels so far.

Lacson also pushed for more investments by the DND in research. “I think you should invest more on R and D,” he said.

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Sen. Lacson asked if the DND can collect income from telcos that set up their facilities in military camps. “You are leasing a portion of your real estate. Wouldn’t it be practical and fair at least you get some compensation sa portion na ino-occupy nila?

He noted the telcos would not need to pay LGUs fees for permits if they set up facilities outside military camps. “Ang laki ng menos,” he said. Sec. Lorenzana said they would look into this.

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Sen. Lacson noted the DND may need at least P99.788 billion in the 2020 budget for the pension of retired uniformed personnel. He pointed out the P69.703-billion Pension and Gratuity Fund proposed by the DND does not include:
* P23.015B for pension differential for 2018 per Joint Resolution No. 1;
* P9.745B pension differential for Jan to May 2019 per Joint Resolution No. 1;
* P5.347B as pension arrearages from 2000 to 2013;
* P2.833B lump sum differential per Joint Resolution 1.

Lacson added the P99.788 billion in pension requirement is at an unsustainable level, as it is 86.71 percent of the P115.077 billion PS budget of active military personnel. “Is that a cause for concern? Definitely it is. Ang tanong na susunod, ano ang plano?

Sec. Lorenzana said at least P4 trillion in seed money will be needed for a sustainable pension program. Sen. Lacson asked him to submit the details immediately, so they can craft a bill on the matter.

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Sen Lacson inquired about the BASULTA Infantry Division’s status. Last year, Sen. Lacson had pushed for a P4.78-billion institutional amendment for 2019 for the BASULTA infantry division that will counter threats from armed groups like the Abu Sayyaf. The NEP was submitted before PRRD gave the instruction to immediately activate the infantry division. “You requested me to augment your budget P4.782B, which I proposed, and the same was adopted in the Senate version. But during BCC, approved P1.391B. Kindly update us on the utilization of the P1.391B and the status of activation,” he said.

You are requesting for funding to catch up, P6.358B. Ang tanong, kung di pa fully utilized ang 1.391B and you are asking for P6.358B, can you obligate or fulfill the utilization of the additional funding?” he added. AFP Vice Chief of Staff Lt. Gen Macairog Alberto said the P1.391B has not been fully utilized but is confident they can utilize it.

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