By Melissa Luz T. Lopez, Reporter

AFP upgrade needs special rules

Posted on July 30, 2015

THE ARMED FORCES of the Philippines (AFP) has asked Congress to put up specialized rules to govern defense purchases, saying that the government’s procurement laws have posed as bottlenecks to the agency’s planned upgrades.

Despite an allocation of P82.48 billion for the AFP Modernization Program until 2027, artillery and vessel upgrades have been delayed as the military had to endure the regular procurement process under Republic Act (RA) 9184, a military official said.

“The acquisition system has been challenged by stringent requirements of RA 9184,” AFP Deputy Chief-of-Staff for Plans Brig. Gen. Guillermo A. Molina, Jr. told lawmakers during a sunset review of the AFP modernization program at the House of Representatives.

Mr. Molina said the strict guidelines set by the procurement law has weighed on the pace of AFP’s acquisition of additional firearms and defense systems.

The House committee on defense and national security called for a panel inquiry for updates on the AFP program, which has been signed into law in 1995 and amended in 2012.

Of 30 planned projects under RA 10349 signed nearly three years ago, only two are under implementation while 28 remain stuck under various stages of procurement, a status report presented by AFP officials yesterday showed.

Even the older law, RA 7898 signed 20 years ago, still had half of its projects pending procurement.

Among the targets for the AFP upgrades are to beef up defense equipment, fortify military bases, and improve personnel training to strengthen hold on the national territory.

The AFP is likewise counting on the modernization program to further strengthen the country’s claim on the West Philippine Sea.

“RA 9184 seems not to be fully responsive of the needs of the AFP,” added Department of National Defense (DND) Assistant Secretary Patrick M. Velez, saying that the limits set by the law are “impossible” for defense system suppliers to fulfill.

Instead, Mr. Velez appealed to Congress to look into either amending the country’s procurement law to leave room to address specific issues on defense purchases, or include a provision in the two AFP modernization bills to exempt them from the limitations of the procedure.

A key amendment would be to extend the 30-day period for bid submissions which Mr. Velez said has proven to be “unrealistic,” as it takes longer to procure defense materials which are usually sourced from foreign suppliers.

Preference to lowest calculated bids and local producers should also be relaxed, the DND official added, as the most advanced systems are built abroad, and are custom-made to fit a unit’s needs.

Instead of using bid prices alone, a system of weighted ratings should also be adopted to compare the items being procured, he added.

“The recent trends in defense procurement is to veer away from procurement managed by the armed forces themselves,” Mr. Velez said, adding that a separate procurement entity for defense agencies or for uniformed personnel services be put up as an alternative. “It would now result in professionalization of defense procurement and correct certain deficiencies.”

For his part, committee chairman and Muntinlupa Rep. Rodolfo G. Biazon said that the committee will have to look at the AFP’s revised modernization program before taking any additional steps.

“We have yet to see this revised modernization program,” Mr. Biazon, a former AFP chief-of-staff, said during the hearing. “This specific provision of the law has yet to be complied with. What is the basis of all these reprioritizations, plans acquisitions? We are not playing with peanuts. We are involving billions of pesos from taxpayers.”