MANILA, Philippines - The Department of National Defense (DND) is in the market for heavy guns as well as military trucks for the Philippine Army (PA) in line with its ongoing efforts to modernize the military.
While there was no mention of the exact amount allotted for the procurement, Defense Undersecretary Antonio Romero said they are looking forward to the purchase of 155mm howitzers for the Army.
At present, the Army is heavily dependent on 105mm howitzers, which only have a maximum range of less than 12 kilometers (air distance), for its counterterrorism, counterinsurgency and anti-lawlessness campaign, especially in Mindanao.
The 155 mm howitzers, which have a range of 15 kilometers (air distance), will boost the Army’s reach into enemy lines, considering that most areas of conflict in the country are confined to rugged terrain.
Also being programmed for acquisition by the defense department are M35 military transport trucks to facilitate the mobility of Army troops on the ground.
But Romero admitted that in so far as the Army’s armor needs is concerned, it is unlikely that the department will program the purchase of heavy tanks since this fighting vehicle is designed to do combat in deserts and plains.
“Also, the country’s road networks and bridges have been designed for light and medium military tanks. If we purchase 60-ton heavy tanks our roads and bridges will be damaged because they are designed for 20-ton vehicles,” Romero said.
The defense department has already sealed a P2.8-billion deal with Poland for the acquisition of eight brand-new combat utility helicopters for the Philippine Air Force (PAF).
Delivery of the four units is expected to happen within a year.
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Malacañang yesterday gave its full backing to the deal with Poland, saying it was a long overdue step towards the modernization of the Armed Forces.Deputy presidential spokesman Rogelio Peyuan said the deal was “definitely above board” and there is no sufficient reason for it to be blocked.Aside from the eight brand-new helicopters, the DND is also looking at Canada orFrance for the acquisition of fighter jets, which the Air Force also needs.
“For now only Canada has a funding scheme for us if we are going to purchase fighter jets from them,” Romero said.
The Philippine Navy is also procuring two MVRs (multi-role vessels), at P5 billion each.
“We fully back the position of the Secretary of National Defense. His office is open to those who have concerns (regarding the acquisition). The documents are available for the proper scrutiny of anyone who’s interested to find out the transparency of the purchase of these choppers,” Peyuan told reporters.“It (deal) is not an overnight idea. We’ve been hearing this modernization thing of the Armed Forces and the entire defense system even during the time of President Fidel Ramos,” he said.Peyuan urged Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III to support the acquisition once he assumes the presidency on June 30.He said defense officials involved in the deal would be able to justify the purchase.“(The government) has already started attending to the modernization efforts of the AFP. So, I would think that the entire defense organization and the AFP will be presenting the same position to the incoming leadership in due time,” Peyuan said. – Paolo Romero