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Philippines Defense Industry

The Philippines has only a very modest domestic arms industry. Several companies manufacture small arms, mortars, other weapons and ammunition for these weapons, other munitions and tactical radios. While the Philippines now ranks fourth among the world's largest shipbuilding countries, after South Korea, China and Japan, the largest naval vessel constructed to date is the BRP Tagbanua (AT-296), landing craft utility [LCU] diplacing 570 tons. During the 1980's the Philippine Air Force (PAF) attempted to reduce its dependence upon American second-hand aircraft by starting its own indigenous aircraft programs. The first program was a single-engine trainer plane, called the "Defiant," that could also be armed and used in the counter-insurgency role. The second was a Philippine-made light utility helicopter named the "Hummingbird." In July 1997 President Ramos authorized spending for the projects, and the Philippine Aerospace Defense Company (PADC) undertook the development effort. But a year later, once Ramos was succeeded by President Estrada, the Defiant and Hummingbird programs were terminated.

The Self-Reliant Defense Posture (SRDP) program, initiated in 1974, took the development of a domestic defense industry as its objective. Defense officials contracted SRDP projects with the government arsenal and local manufacturers, encouraging the use of indigenous raw materials and production capacity. Projects included domestic production of small arms, radios, and assorted ammunition. One of the most significant SRDP operations was the manufacture of the M-16A1 rifle under license from Colt Industries, an American company. According to a 1988 statement by the Philippine armed forces chief of staff, the SRDP not only increased Philippine self-reliance, but also cut costs, provided jobs, and saved much-needed foreign-exchange funds.

The 1998 White Paper noted that defense Self-Reliance was only possible after a period of foreign procurement coupled with technology transfer, in the short term, and the establishment of a domestic defense industry capable of indigenous support for AFP weapons and equipment, in the long term. The various SDRP projects, properly guided and managed, can be integrated and developed into a local defense industry initially capable of at least providing repair and maintenance support with a high level of domestic content. Later on, with sufficient investment in research and development and sound management, the industry can be elevated to provide upgrades and even move into the manufacture of defense products.

SRDP programs would give emphasis on projects for which the country has comparative advantages and should avoid one-shot projects or projects whose economic viability is doubtful-Beyond achieving defense self-reliance, a local defense industry, arising from today's Self-Reliant Defense Posture programs, will provide employment opportunities, enhance the depth and diversity of the Filipino's technological expertise and help build an industrial base for economic growth.

The already existing Self-Reliant Defense Posture Program of the Armed Forces of the Philippines is periodically reviewed and analyzed for policy and structural changes to make it more responsive to changing and more complex defense requirements and to attune it to better support AFP requirements. The Defense Department works to expand and strengthen government support for SRDP and seek to lay down strong management foundations for the SRDP.

With an external defense program considered in the early 1990s, it would be a significant contribution to economic development if the fledgling Philippine defense industry was developed to assist in building weapons for external defense. The country can produce small arms equipment and supplies, but needed to concentrate on upgrading its arms production status. The point is, major weapon systems need to be produced in order for the Philippine economy to benefit from its external defense initiatives as well as any long range modernization efforts. For the near term however, with the number of Philippine nationals employed at both Subic Bay and Clark Air Base, the Philippines had been content to provide only maintenance and produce small items only. It would be prudent for the Philippines to embark ona long term plan to implement programs for building major weapons.

A procurement of some type of fighter aircraft in substantial numbers could lead to coproduction in country. Although an expensive weapon system, the F-16 was an example of a multi-role aircraft for the Philippine Air Force. The reason for focusing on the F-16 is the fact that other ASEAN countries have purchased the F-16 in small numbers. The Philippines could serve as a depot type location for repair and overhaul ofthose F-16s in theater. If the F-16 were cost prohibitive from the Philippine perspective, perhaps a less expensive aircraft such as the F-5 or a resurrection of the F-20 could be given consideration. In fact, the F-5 was ultimately abandoned, leaving the Philippine armed forces with no fighter aircraft.

In an effort to provide the Filipino soldier with adequate equipment needed to uphold the sovereignty and preserve the patrimony of the country, the Congress passed Republic Act Number 7898 in 1995, otherwise known as the AFP Modernization Act. From then on, the Armed Forces of the Philippines continued to strive hard in laying the groundwork for the implementation of the AFP Modernization Program. Despite the adverse external factors that hampered the smooth execution of the Program such as political and economic instability; volatile security climate, and limited budgetary allocation, it did not inhibit us from pursuing its objectives.

We taught and we have learned our lessons well that we should never build our defenses on the shifting sands of mutual defense agreements, and it is time we build it on firmer foundations. For while we have faith in our allies, we should not be completely dependent upon them. For while we believe in their courage and their capability, they also have their own national interest that may sometime conflict with ours. For in matters of defense the guarantee of friends can be modified to suit their needs and interest, as the history of nations vividly show. These words of President Ferdinand E. Marcos, President of the Republic of the Philippines, laid the foundation of a vigorous attempt to develop a defense system of a self-respecting, independent nature, relying solely on the countrys capabilities and resources: The Self-Reliant Defense Posture Program (or SRDP) of the Republic of the Philippines.



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