FORT DEL PILAR, Baguio City, Philippines - Modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is finally coming to reality as contracts for about 10 percent of 138 AFP modernization projects worth P70 billion has been approved, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said Saturday.
Interviewed at the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) during the annual alumni homecoming, Gazmin told reporters that should they fail to meet their July 31, 2012 deadline to approve the contracts for all 138 AFP modernization projects, the latest would be on the last quarter of this year.
"We are very optimistic that these will be approved by July, 2012 and if we miss the target, the bad, the pessimistic part will be in November, 2012," said the defense chief.
Gazmin, however, stressed definitely the long-sought modernization of the AFP is now moving, particularly on the acquisition of mortars and force protection gadgets like bullet proof vests and helmets for the use of forces on the ground.
He added that before the term of President Benigno S. Aquino III ends in 2016, modernization of the AFP will finally be achieved through the 138 projects.
"Bago matapos ang panahon ng pangulo maipagmamalaki na natin ang armed forces natin, maganda mag-AFP Day na maipakita natin yung lakas ng ating armed forces. Siguro hindi na aabutan ng 2016 ito, siguro mga 2013 o 2014 meron na tayong maipagmamalaking sariling atin," said Gazmin.
Defense officials have repeatedly stated that everything the department would acquire in line with the AFP modernization program will support not only internal security, but also external security, as well as, disaster risk management and support to national development that includes engineering equipment.
Gazmin said that the previous AFP modernization act expired December 2011 without significant impact to the military, but this time, they will see to it that the armed forces would get modern war materiel and military equipments to enable it to effectively defend the country against internal and external threats.
It was recalled that in January, Gazmin signed a five-year agreement with Italian Defense Minister Giampaolo Di Paola that will expedite the procurement of military hardware from the Italian defense industry suppliers.
The arrangement will be valid for five years from signing and will be automatically extended for another five years unless there is a written notice of intention to terminate.
But aside from Italy, Gazmin said the DND is also looking at other possible suppliers like South Korea, Spain, and France.
Among the big ticket items to be purchased include attack helicopters, utility helicopters, offshore patrol vessels and strategic sealift vessels, coast watch system radars, fighter trainer jets, multi-role combat aircraft and long range patrol aircraft.
The Philippine Air Force has already acquired 18 basic trainer aircraft from Alenia Aermacchi, an Italian company known for its design, production and support of military training aircraft. All 18 units were delivered as of 2011.