MANILA --– The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Tuesday cited the need for the enactment of a law on defense procurement that would supervise and manage projects included in its Modernization Program.
"You know, one of the challenges we have is we don't have a defense procurement law that will deal with the Modernization Program of the Armed Forces. Imagine even our projects are being published in the PHILGEPS (Philippine Government Electronic Procurement System) just like common supplies of the different government agencies," said AFP chief-of-staff, Gen. Gilbert Gapay, in an online news conference held by the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP) when asked on the challenges besetting the military's Modernization Program.
Gapay said that many of the platforms and equipment being acquired under the program are supposed to be "top secret" but they are compelled to reveal these when posting their invitation to bid at the PHILGEPS.
"Imagine these are supposed to be confidential and top-secret capabilities which we're developing and we are not exempted from posting these things in our invitation to bid," he added.
He said the AFP has a proposal submitted to the House of Representatives regarding the enactment of separate defense procurement law that would govern its Modernization Program.
The AFP chief added the proposal is now at sub-committee level and he is hoping that it would pass at the third reading at the Lower House. Also, he said a version of this proposal is now in the Senate and also hopeful that it will be enacted soon.
"But since we don't have (that) law (yet) we're still governed by Republic Act 9184 (Government Procurement Reform Act)," Gapay said.
Other problems delaying the AFP Modernization Program is the lack of budget and the ongoing coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic which forced the government to channel some of its funds to support ongoing efforts to contain and mitigate the effects of the sickness.
"So primarily it’s the budget, then the procurement process. And of course, another factor is the recent Covid-19 pandemic wherein the government channeled some of the modernization funds to fund Covid (-19)-related activities of the government," Gapay said.
He added that the delays in the AFP Modernization Program are not good as the military is facing several security challenges.
"So, imagine if it will take us a year for the bidding and procurement process and wait another two years for delivery, that’s three years and that’s too much delay as far as capability buildup is concerned and right now the AFP is confronting several security challenges," Gapay said.
He was referring to internal security threats from the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army, local terrorist groups, and the need to secure the West Philippine Sea and other maritime resources aside from supporting the Philippine National Police in its anti-criminality campaign.
"So we really need these capabilities and in these delays, of course, it impairs the accomplishment of our mission, but we're lucky that our soldiers (are) really are that committed and dedicated to their job, to their sworn duties. That's why somehow the Armed Forces are able to perform its mandate effectively despite these limitations of equipment," he added.