AFP chief: Defense spending should be 1% of Phl budget

MANILA, Philippines - Armed Forces chief Gen. Gregorio Catapang Jr. is pushing for greater military spending, saying this would enable the country to defend its territory.

Catapang said military expenditures should be increased to 1 percent of the national budget to enable the government to buy more equipment for territorial defense.

“What is important now is for our country to become prosperous because our argument is maybe at least we increase our expenditure for our defense and military,” Catapang said in a press briefing on Monday.

“What I’m proposing is that at least 1 percent of the approved national budget will go to the improvement of the capabilities of our defense and military units, to include the Office of Civil Defense,” he added. 

Catapang made the statement when asked what Filipinos can do to counter China’s aggressive expansion in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

The Asian superpower has been occupying disputed areas to assert its expansive territorial claim, including some areas that are well within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

The 2015 national budget stands at P2.6 trillion. In 2012, President Aquino signed a law that allotted P75 billion for the military’s modernization program from 2013 to 2017.

The modernization program will be given P15-billion each year from the national budget. The annual outlay of P15 billion is equivalent only to about 0.57 percent of the 2015 budget.

Because of its poorly equipped military, the Philippines cannot stop China’s construction activities in its West Philippine Sea territories namely Mabini (Johnson South) Reef, Calderon (Cuarteron) Reef, Burgos (Gaven) Reef, Kagitingan (Fiery Cross) Reef, Kennan (Hughes) Reef, Zamora (Subi) Reef and Panganiban (Mischief) Reef.

When reminded that China would have been finished with its construction projects by the time the Philippines becomes a prosperous country, Catapang merely stressed the need to boost territorial defense capabilities.

“Reclaiming the areas is one side of the story but putting up a strong credible deterrence for our country, ensuring that our territory will be defended from any foreign country that intends to harm us, will be a very big boost to our territorial defense,” the military chief said.

 “I don’t know the intention of China for doing this, but what is important is we are prepared to defend the country,” he added. -philSTAR

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