Senator Risa Hontiveros today expressed alarm over the ‘severely inadequate’ remittances by the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) supposed to help fund the military’s modernization program, saying that the shortage of funds jeopardizes the country’s ability to counter threats and protect its territory.
“Hindi dapat madiskaril ang modernisasyon ng ating sandatahang lakas dahil lang sa kawalan at kabagalan ng pondo. It is unacceptable that the BCDA is able to remit what is at best, only one-tenth of the actual funds needed by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to upgrade our military capabilities,” Hontiveros said.
The senator’s statement came after new AFP Chief of Staff General Gilbert Gapay confirmed to lawmakers in the Commission on Appointments (CA) that the BCDA has a ‘large amount’ of unremitted earnings.
Under Republic Act 7898 or the AFP Modernization Act, the BCDA is mandated to submit remittances from its sale and development of former military reservations to help finance the different projects under the multi-year AFP Modernization Program.
“In the CA hearing, it became clear that the BCDA has so far only submitted around P32 billion in remittances. That is only ten percent of the estimated P300 billion needed to implement pending AFP modernization projects. Ang nipis ng halagang iyan at hindi kayang pondohan ang bawat barko, eroplano, weapon systems at ibang kagamitan na kailangang-kailangan ng ating kasundaluhan, ” Hontiveros said.
“The BCDA said in its financial report in 2018 that it has been allocating 50 to 72.5 percent of its net proceeds from disposition of government assets primarily to the AFP and other government agencies. Kaya nakakagulat at nakakapang-hina kung bakit napakaliit ng halaga na pinagkakasya natin para mapalakas ang kakayanan ng AFP,” she added.
Hontiveros said that the BCDA must immediately increase and speed up its remittance of dividends to benefit the AFP, starting with the existing P13.2 billion still unremitted by the agency as earlier identified by Senator Panfilo Lacson.
“The Jolo bombings and the continued aggression of China in the West Philippine Sea highlight the need to vastly improve the AFP’s capability to meet all threats to the rights and security of Filipinos. Hindi dapat kulang at mabagal ang pagdating ng pondo para sa AFP modernization, dahil buhay ng taumbayan at kasarinlan ng bansa ang nakataya dito,” she concluded. SENATE.GOV.PH