THE SPECIAL Forces Regiment (Airborne) of the Philippine Army celebrated its 61st founding anniversary at Fort Magsaysay in Palayan City, Nueva Ecija on June 25, 2023. — PPA POOL

By Beatriz Marie D. Cruz, Reporter

FORTY-SIX Philippine laws including the modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) could not be enforced due to a funding gap of half-a-trillion pesos, according to a House of Representatives think tank.

The military has been unable to get the P297.7-billion budget it needs this year to implement the program, the Congressional Policy and Budget Research Department said in a report.

The Rice Tariffication Law has also failed to move given a P10.03-billion funding deficiency, while a law that seeks to allot a part of state earnings from the Malampaya natural gas project to help lower electricity prices lacks P184 billion, it said.

Another law that seeks to strengthen electric cooperatives needs P20.03 billion, while the Philippine Space Act has a funding deficiency of P10 billion. The Shelter Financing Act needs P9.04 billion. 

“Of the P554.5-billion total funding deficiency, about 95.7% or P530.8 billion can be traced to the six major laws with significant funding requirements,” the House think tank said in the report.

Republic Act 10349 or the revised AFP Modernization Act has a proposed P50-billion budget under the 2024 national appropriations. Defense Secretary Gilbert C. Teodoro told a Senate hearing in September the agency initially requested P115.1 billion.

Hansley A. Juliano, who teaches political science at the Ateneo De Manila University, said the military should show results to higher funding.

“There’s that fundamental dilemma the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Philippine National Police has had for a while now: they keep demanding resource hikes, but the money doesn’t go down to where it’s needed,” he said in a Facebook Messenger chat. “Our borders remain unprotected, and it’s only the general staff that’s getting richer.”

He also cited the need for more transparency in the enforcement of the AFP modernization program.

“This lack of transparency on itemizing what those funds should be (and why they are needed) continues to feed the suspicion of civil society organizations who have had bad history with the AFP,” Mr. Juliano said, citing red-tagging and alleged human rights abuses by state forces.

Congressmen last month allotted P2.64 billion to expand and develop the runway on the Philippine-occupied Thitu Island in the South China Sea.

President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. in February gave the US access to four more military bases on top of the five existing locations under their 2014 Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), amid China’s increasing assertiveness in the South China Sea.

The President this month started talks with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on a reciprocal pact that seeks to boost military cooperation between the two countries.

The House think tank said a total of 205 laws had a funding deficiency between 1991 and 2022, with 163 of these unfunded and 42 only partially funded.