Clearly our military modernization program has been neglected. Each year the government only allocates P5 billion for the program, not even enough to buy a squadron of second hand F-16 Fighting Falcons, the world’s top multirole fighter jet.
Last year, President Arroyo declared the budget balance of the AFP to be at P 1.28 billion. At the same time she ordered the Department of Budget Management (DBM) to use the funds to increase the soldiers’ low combat pay. The program may have been blown further away but at least it was for a good cause, right? Unlike the P 5 billion made from the sale of Fort Bonifacio during the Ramos era that was used to cushion the figure of the budget deficit made during his time.
Only one man in the government has shown passion to bring the AFP back to its glory days, economic planning secretary Ralph Recto. During his time as a senator, Recto expressed how important it was to modernize the military for in doing so would also help other economic aspects. Take for instance offshore border patrol, illegal fishermen from neighboring countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia steal a total of P 25 billion worth of tuna from the Mindanao tuna highway each year. Thats a big loss for us. The military could also end the conflict in Mindanao, making more room for investors.
For some people, military hardware may seem like a waste. Like a kid spending his money on toys instead of education. But we have to see things on a broader scale. The military has the potential to boost the economy, especially with the kind of problems we have now. And a recent survery has shown that foreign investors would feel much more comfortable investing in countries with a much capable armed force. Take Taiwan for example, its economic boom in the past decades can be attributed to the kind of priority it gave to its armed force.
Recto was just dreaming of a modern military during his time as a lawmaker. Now he’s in charge of the economy. Much capable of gathering funds for the program. A new year has begun, which means a new budget is too. Will the National Economic Development Authority secretary fulfill his promise now?