MANILA, Philippines – The Department of National Defense (DND) on Wednesday said the contract for the 12 fighter jets that government plans to purchase could be signed this year, with the delivery of the jets expected to begin in 2013.
Authorities said the process is expedited because there is no public bidding.
“Almost all the big projects are government-to-government,” said Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin.
Also exempt from public bidding is the purchase of other military hardware for the Air Force, including support aircraft from various countries worth billions of pesos.
The T-50 surface attack jet fighters, which are made by South Korea, are worth P1.25 billion each.
However, one lawmaker is concerned that the contracts could again become a vector for corruption.
“Nagbubukas ‘yan ng malaking puwang para sa kickbacks at corruption na usually nasasangkot ang isang proyektong hindi dumadaan sa public bidding,” said Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño.
A military analyst, meanwhile, says government should not rush their purchases.
“Huwag naman tayo magmadaling bumili tapos mayroon naman palang mas mura,” said Prof. Clarita Carlos.
Both Casiño and Carlos express concern that education and public services could suffer because of the large budget allocated to the military.
“’Pag hinugot mo sa isang parte, binigay mo siya sa defense strategy mo, huhugutin mo siya from somewhere,” said Carlos.
Casiño also questioned the need for 12 fighter planes.
“Do we really need 12 jet fighter planes? Sa kalagayang ang pinakamalaking problema ng bansa ay kahirapan,” he said.
In a statement, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad gave his assurance that funds for government's other programs will not be affected.
“Even with the P5 billion annual AFP modernization fund, we are able to allocate more than enough for our poverty reduction and infra-development programs, for which in the past year and this year we are providing huge increases in investments,” said Abad.
Gazmin also says the government is only playing catch-up after the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ modernization fell by the wayside. -- Reports from Anthony Taberna, ABS-CBN News; ANC