Philippine military-oriented social media groups, from Facebook to Timawa.net are buzzing with talk about raising funds to help the AFP Modernization program. The Department of National Defense is reportedly even investigating a suspected scam involving individuals who are supposedly raising funds for the acquisition of equipment from concerned, but naive, Filipino nationals. But the sad reality is . . . there is no need for such efforts.
Turn the clock back a decade ago, then funding concerns were legitimate. The 1997 financial crisis was followed by political uncertainty that led to the ouster of a President by a text- message-revolution. This was followed by sweeping reforms in government procurement that left the AFP dazed and confused . . . so much so that it didn’t buy anything till 2003. Almost a decade after the AFP Modernization Law went into effect.
Today, in the 2nd decade of the century, the funding uncertainty and procedural confusion are things of the past. A long line of DND personnel (both in the current administration AND before), in cooperation with other government agencies (e.g. GPPB, etc.) have cut swaths of clarity through the tangled web of red tape. There is now enough knowledge to allow the application of the nation’s treasury to the cause of national defense. Consider the following:
- Procedural impediments to effiicient use of the AFPMTF have been addressed. Modernization funds leftover for the year, and funds derived from authorized income, can now be accessed with less difficulty than in years past
- Proper access to Petro-pesos, both present and future, have been worked out. Malampaya funding has already been leveraged to acquire one ship for the Philippine Navy, and more acquisitions are lined up
- Challenges with the Government Procurement Reform Act of 2003 have been dealt with, particularly the cumbersome bidding process which often yield the cheapest equipment rather than the best
- Procedures for Multi-Year Obligation Authority (MYOA) were finally worked in the closing months of the previous administration. Acquisitions are no longer limit to the Annual modernization budget. Funds can be sourced from several annual budgets
- The DND is now in the process of professionalizing the procurement process with the creation of the Office of Defense Acquisition
EVERYTHING has been worked out . . .
. . . except for the political intestinal fortitude to stay the course. As a modernization-minded AFP officer once said “Mindsets are the hardest things to modernize”.