Sep 052013
A former government official who served under the administration of President Benigno Aquino III’s mother has an advice for the President: use pork barrel funds to modernize the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

In a Facebook post, Rafael Alunan III asked Aquino to “please cut the bureacratic red tape so that you can, as Commander-in-Chief, buy ASAP the necessary capital assets and support systems for the Navy and Air Force needed to defend our country, protect our EEZ (exclusive economic zone) and uphold our nation’s dignity and honor.”

Alunan served as Tourism secretary during the term of the late President Corazon Aquino, and secretary of Department of Interior and Local Government under President Fidel Ramos.

Alunan said Aquino and the lawmakers could use part of their Special Purpose Fund (SPF) and Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), respectively, in bankrolling the military’s long-delayed modernization

He gave the advice amid the growing tension between the Philippines and China regarding the supposed Chinese structures being raised at Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, a disputed area in the West Philippine Sea, as well as the issue on the alleged misuse of pork barrel funds by some lawmakers.

Alunan said the government fully knows what the military needs in its modernization.

“They (military) have submitted their requirements and all it needs now is decisiveness to negotiate and buy what is needed from the most reliable suppliers,” he said, adding that  Aquino must prioritize the purchase and construction of necessary infrastructure to support those assets in the next three years.

“Buy brand new, off the shelf, if necessary, but if there are good bargains for existing assets for immediate transfer, please do not hesitate to grab these. Time is of the essence,” he further said.

Alunan said the local government can also help in this endeavor by giving part of their internal revenue allotment (IRA); the business sector through buying patriot bonds and investing in joint-venture defense manufacturing; the public through additional 50 centavos on top of current commercial charges for every text or multimedia messages or call; and official development funds or soft long-term loans from friendly countries.

He also asked Aquino to direct the ambassadors to “obtain full access to modern assets and systems needed to meet our objectives.”

Sought for comment, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said the President’s Special Purpose Funds, “as the name suggests, have specific purposes for their utilization and cannot be used beyond those purposes.

“With respect to IRA, the Supreme Court has ruled on the nature of the usage of those allotments,” he added. “Hence, with respect to IRA and SPFs, we cannot touch those funds.”

“Right now, the problem of AFP is not money but the ability/capacity to procure in a timely way,” Abad said. Amita O. Legaspi/KBK, GMA News

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