Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff Gen. Gilbert Gapay on Monday said the country’s military is now “60 percent at par” with neighboring countries in the Southeast Asian region in terms of its defense capabilities.
Gapay made this statement when asked about the AFP’s ongoing modernization program in a Laging Handa briefing.
“Right now, maybe, masasabi natin we are already at 60 percent at par with our neighboring countries. But once yung mga nasa modernization pipeline ay ma-deliver na, medyo paparehas na tayo (Right now, maybe we say that we are already at 60 percent at par with our neighboring countries but once the deliverables in the modernization pipeline arrive, we can say that we are at par with them),” he added.
Due to the ongoing AFP modernization program, Gapay said the AFP is now starting to get the respect of its counterparts in terms of its defense capabilities.
He added that this is demonstrated by President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s thrust to beef up the AFP’s capability.
“Sabi nga niya (Duterte), nais nyang makita ang isang malakas at tunay na maaasahan na armed forces once he steps down in 2022, at yun ang kanyang ginagawa (Like what he said, he wants a strong and dependable Armed Forces once he steps down in 2022),” Gapay said.
He added that this can be seen in the improvements being done to the Philippine Navy (PN) which is now equipped with missile frigates and a corvette which are now being used to patrol the country’s territorial and exclusive economic zones (EEZ).
Gapay was referring to the missile frigate BRP Jose Rizal (FF-150) which was commissioned last July 10 and its sister ship, the BRP Antonio Luna (FF-151), which is scheduled to be delivered by the first quarter of 2021 and BRP Conrado Yap (PS-39), an anti-submarine corvette donated by the South Korean Navy and activated in August 2019.
Previously, the PN’s most capable ships were the three Del Pilar-class offshore patrol vessels which were retired Hamilton-class cutters acquired from the United States Coast Guard as excess defense articles during 2011, 2013, and 2017 and armed primarily with a 76mm Oto Melara automatic cannon.
Gapay said there is a possibility that the Philippine Air Force (PAF) will be having multi-role fighters like or similar to the General Dynamics F-16 “Falcon/Viper” in its inventory before Duterte concludes his term in 2022.
“Soon bago bumaba ang ating Pangulo, magkakaroon na rin tayo ng multi-role fighters kagaya ng mga F-16s sa inventory ng ating Air Force (Soon, before President Duterte steps down, we will having multi-role fighters like the F-16s in our Air Force’s inventory,” he added.
At present, the PAF is operating 12 units of the Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) FA-50PH “Fighting Eagle” light-lift trainer as its fighter and attack aircraft.
These aircraft were delivered starting in 2015 and were completed in 2017.
The FA-50PH has a maximum speed of Mach 1.5 and generally more capable than the sub-sonic SIAI-Marchetti S-211 jet trainers the PAF used for air defense missions following the retirement of its Mach 1.4 capable Northrop F-5 “Tiger” jet fighters in 2005.
Gapay added the AFP is now more mobile and capable of amphibious operations as proven by the recently concluded “DAGIT-PA” exercises which started on Nov. 23 and ended on Dec. 4. PNA.GOV.PH