MANILA -- The military will finally distribute the newly acquired M4 assault rifles to troops on Tuesday, officially marking the start of its modernization of the firepower capability of ground forces.
President Benigno Aquino III will lead the ceremonial distribution of the rifles, which will replace the old M16 and M16A1 rifles that have been in use since the Vietnam War era.
The military initially planned to acquire 50,629 M4 rifles, but savings allowed it to purchase 63,000 at a contract value of P2.4 billion.
United States-based Remington Outdoor Company won the public bidding in October 2013.
The firearms manufacturer already delivered 27,300 units – 100 in July 5 and 27,200 last July 31. The balance will be delivered in December.
Army spokesman Lt. Col. Noel Detoyato said around 55,000 will be going to Army soldiers who are battling various threats, including communist rebels. The rest would be given to the Marines.
Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala, AFP public affairs chief, said the Light Reaction Battalion – a US-trained counter-terrorism unit – uses M4s, which are more modern compared to M16s.
"We are looking at same firearms that the LRB is (currently) using. The skill set of the troops will definitely improve," he said, explaining that the objective of the modernization program is to improve the mission-essential capability requirements of the AFP in terms of firepower for the ground troops."
“With this recent acquisition, the AFP is optimistic that it will significantly contribute to the development and transformation of the AFP into a multi-mission-oriented force, capable of effectively addressing both internal and external threats,” he added.
The ceremonial distribution should have been held last July 14 but was cancelled at the height of the controversy surrounding the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).