HIS Excellency, President Benigno S. Aquino III signed into law Republic Act (RA) 10349, the New Armed Forces of the Philippines Modernization Act, on December 11, 2012, extending for another 15 years the modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and providing P75 billion for the first five years to boost the military's capability program. It amended RA 7898, the original AFP Modernization Act, signed on February 23, 1995.

The 130,000-strong AFP is divided into three main services: Philippine Army (PA), Philippine Air Force (PAF), and Philippine Navy (PN), composed of the Philippine Fleet and the Philippine Marine Corps. RA 10349 will help the AFP acquire equipment in its Medium-Term (2013-2017) Acquisition List, including jet fighters and 21 helicopters for the PAF; two missile-firing frigates and two anti-submarine helicopters for the PN; and modern protection equipment for the PA.

The AFP identified 39 projects to be covered by the revised modernization plan. Among others, PAF will acquire 21 additional UH-1B multipurpose helicopters to replace its UH-1H (Huey) helicopters and 10 attack helicopters in the next two years. The plan also includes the purchase of three medium-lift aircraft to complement PAF's C-130 Hercules cargo planes.

RA 10349 exempts from the requirement of public bidding major defense purchases such as aircraft, vessels, tanks, armored vehicles, communication equipment, and high powered firearms. It grants more funding sources from public-private partnerships entered into by the Department of National Defense (DND). It allows multi-year contracts and exempts from value-added tax and customs duties the sale of weapons, equipment, and ammunition to the AFP.

We congratulate the Armed Forces of the Philippines headed by Chief of Staff Gen. Jessie D. Dellosa, Vice Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Noel A. Coballes, Philippine Army Commanding General Lt. Gen. Emmanuel T. Bautista, Philippine Air Force Commanding General Lt. Gen. Lauro Catalino G. dela Cruz, and Philippine Navy Flag Officer-in-Command Vice Admiral Jose Luis M. Alano, all the best and success in their combined efforts to develop and transform the AFP into a multi mission-oriented organization. CONGRATULATIONS AND MABUHAY!

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