Saturday, July 18, 2015

Needs of fighting troops to be provided -- new PA chief

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 18): Needs of fighting troops to be provided -- new PA chief

Stressing that soldiers are the military's best assets, newly-appointed Philippine Army (PA) commander Major Gen. Eduardo Año said the needs of the troops facing and fighting the insurgents and lawless elements will be provided.

"We will continue to manage our resources well while we develop mechanisms to better support and provide the needs of our fighting troops in the front-lines and at the home front," he added.

And with soldiers being the PA's best assets, Año stressed that these fighting men will be provided more training and equipment to give them their best fighting potential.

This includes provision of adequate protective gears to increase survivability in battle, he added.

This was highlighted by the recent decision to reschedule the PA's PHP6.5-billion shore-based missile system (SBMS) program in exchange for the acquisition of more modern force protection equipment, squad designated rifles and radios.

"(The SBMS project) was not removed, we merely requested that it be put on the second horizon of the AFP modernization program. We did not scrap it, we (just) requested that it be moved," newly-appointed Armed Forces of the Philippines chief-of-staff Lt. Gen. Hernando DCA Iriberri earlier said.

The SBMS will be acquired to beef up the external defense capabilities of the PA and not aimed at any particular nation.

Sources said the SBMS consists of 12 launchers, trailers and tracking systems and missiles that could be fired to neutralize ground and naval targets.

And in its place, force protection equipment, squad designated rifles and modern radios.

The AFP's modernization program is divided into three horizons, with the first lasting from 2013 to 2017, the second from 2018 to 2022 and third 2023 to 2028.

He also said the decision to move the SBMS project to the second horizon came about from his stint as PA chief which lasted from Feb. 7, 2014 until July this year.

During that time, Iriberri revealed that he had the opportunity to visit Army units nationwide and talked with their leaders.

During those meetings, he learned that 280 soldiers were killed in action while another 908 were wounded.

Iriberri said those fatalities and casualties would have not been incurred had these Army personnel possess adequate force protection equipment like body armor and helmets

"And as PA commanding general, I requested that a re-prioritization, remember that the AFP modernization first horizon has budget of PHP95 billion, with the PA just getting PHP9.5 billion which is barely 10 percent, I understand this as the Navy and Air Force's (modernization projects) are capital intensive. But out of that PHP9.5 billion, PHP6.5 billion will go to the SBMS with only the remaining PHP3 billion to upgrade our warfighting capability and that does not include the acquisition of force protection equipment," he added.

With that gap, Iriberri said that he then requested the senior leadership to look into this and prioritize first the acquisition of the force protection equipment and other essential items.

"That is the reason why I requested for a reprioritization because I wanted to provide our soldiers the necessary force protection equipment in doing their duty, regardless on whether it is for external or internal defense missions," the newly-appointed AFP chief stressed.

Iriberri also clarified that prior its repriotization, the SBMS project was just a proposal, adding what they did was merely to submit a counter-proposal which he believes is in the best interest of our soldiers.

He vehemently denied claims that he is getting a fat commission for pushing for the acquisition of force protection equipment, adding that such allegations are pure lies.

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