Defense department proposes 5th largest share of 2020 national budget

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of National Defense (DND) has sought Congress’ approval of its proposed budget of P258 billion for 2020, of which more than a quarter would go to retired servicemen’s pensions.

Less the P69.7 billion allotted for pensions and gratuity funds for retirees of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and war veterans, the DND will have more than P188.6 billion in regular funds if Congress approves the agency’s proposed budget in the Duterte administration’s National Expenditure Program (NEP) for 2020.

The DND, which administers the AFP, the Office of Civil Defense, the National Defense College, the Government Arsenal, the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office, and the Veterans Memorial Medical Center, is set to receive the fifth largest share of next year’s P4.1 trillion proposed national budget.

The AFP’s P183.3 billion proposed budget will be distributed as follows: 

Of the GHQ’s proposed budget, P25 billion is allotted for the AFP modernization program, or the staggered acquisition of assets and equipment to boost the military’s defense capabilities.

The AFP is on the second phase of the program, from 2018 to 2022, during which the government plans to spend a total of P125 billion on aircraft, naval vessels, weaponry, and communication systems.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana presented the DND’s budget proposal to the House of Representatives’ committee on appropriations on Tuesday, August 27.

Some lawmakers pressed Lorenzana for clarifications on recent incursions by Chinese naval and survey ships in Philippine waters, which they said highlights the urgent need to boost the Navy’s capability to protect sovereignty and territorial integrity.

“Currently, we have very small capability to react to these intrusions,” Lorenzana told the panel.

New warships are lined up for the Navy: two frigates in 2020 and 2021, possibly two “more powerful” corvettes afterwards, along with another two second-hand corvettes, all from South Korea.

The Pohang-class corvette BRP Conrado Yap, which served South Korea for about 3 decades, just joined the Philippine naval fleet last week.

The DND’s proposed regular budget of P188.6 billion is 1.3% larger than its P186.2 budget in 2019.

Meanwhile, the proposed allocation for pensions, P69.7 billion, is 24% higher than the P57 billion in 2019.

The “ballooning pension” of veterans and retired members of the military has long posed a problem for the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), requiring a larger allocation of the DND’s budget every year.

Lorenzana has pushed for the refiling of the military pension reform bill, which failed to hurdle the 17th Congress.

The measure would increase the pensionable age from 56 to 60, among other changes to the system to make it fair to retirees but also sustainable for the government, according to the DBM. – Rappler.com

JC Gotinga

JC Gotinga often reports about the West Philippine Sea, the communist insurgency, and terrorism as he covers national defense and security for Rappler. He enjoys telling stories about his hometown, Pasig City. JC has worked with Al Jazeera, CNN Philippines, News5, and CBN Asia.

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