SENATORS are on track pushing passage of an enabling law boosting the Philippines self-reliant defense posture amid looming external threats.
Heeding calls to bolster the country’s national security capabilities, Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri cited concerns over sustained external threats posed by brewing maritime disputes prompting senators to push ahead with Senate Bill (SB) 2455 embodying the proposed “Self-Reliant Defense Posture Revitalization Act.”
The Senate President last Wednesday pressed for timely passage of the enabling legislation, also seen to timely develop the defense industry and its capability to locally produce weaponry and equipment for the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
Presiding over the plenary interpellation on the enabling bill, Zubiri pointed out that countries like the United States require arm manufacturers who supply them with weapons to set up shop in their home-country.
“We would like that to happen as well in the Philippines where if these companies want to sell firearms to the armed forces or the armed services they [would] have to set up shops in the Philippines and manufacture them here in our country,” he added.
The Senate leader noted: “That way they pay income taxes, hire laborers and create more jobs.”
ZUBIRI disclosed that “the country is now in deep negotiation with an Australian ship company” that has a shipyard in Balamban, Cebu.
“With the passage of [the enabling bill], we will prioritize locally-made equipment,” he said. “They told me they could build the ships here in one year and would hire 3,000 ship builders for the three boats.”
In addition, Zubiri noted that “the point is, they are excited to build [the ships] here. We don’t have to buy them from Australia.”
He also noted that the ships even come with a guarantee that repairs would be done in the shipyard in Cebu.
At the same time, Senator Sonny Angara called for the reevaluation of government policies that will help level the playing field for local arms/defense firms opening manufacturing plants in the country.
Angara aired the call during the plenary interpellation on SB 2455.
Time to reevaluate
ANGARA noted, however, that only one arms company remained open in the Philippines to date.
“They did not receive the support from the government basically,” the senator said, adding: “Now that the population is large, it is perhaps time to reevaluate our policies. Because then, we were more export-oriented. But here, we are looking at the domestic market, not just for economic reasons but also for the reasons mentioned by the Senate President,” Angara said.
Sen. Mark Villar affirmed his support for the passage of SB 2455 to strengthen a self-reliant defense posture program and promote the development of a national defense industry in the Philippines.
At Wednesday’s plenary session, Villar clarified that as the chairman the Committee on Trade, Commerce and Entrepreneurship, it is “his advocacy to support local businesses and make them internationally competitive.”
“They are already internationally competitive, if we can give more support to companies like Armscor in the defense industry, I’m confident that we can generate more jobs,” the lawmaker said. “That’s why I believe that we should pass this bill at the soonest possible time.”
“We need to support our local industries, we need to help them become internationally competitive,” Villar added. “This bill is an opportunity for us to give that much needed support, create jobs, create an industry that can compete internationally.”