The Philippines Department of National Defense (DND) plans to acquire two long-range patrol aircraft at an investment of US$135 million, (P5.98 billion). Support facilities for these aircraft will be established at the Lipa, Palawan and Zamboanga airfields located at the western and southern perimeters of the Sulu Sea. In addition, DND is set to field three air surveillance radars to expand airspace coverage at key locations, at a cost of $60 million (P2.68 billion).
Manila expressed interest in the CASA CN-235MP assembled and supported in Indonesia by IPTN under a joint venture agreement with the Spanish OEM. On a typical mission the CN-235MP has a mission endurance of over eight hours, cruising at a speed of up to 455 km/h. The US Coast Guards and the Spanish Navy are operating the CN-235MP ‘Persuaders’ since the early 2000s. In SouthEast Asia, Indonesia has recently inducted the first locally built CN-235MP. Other operators include South Korea, Turkey, Brunai and Malaysia.
While CN-235MP seems as the right choice, Manila said it could also consider the Italian C-27J Spartan tactical transport aircraft, but that plane would have to be converted especially for the maritime patrol role, a process that is likely to be too costly for the budget the Philippines have set aside for the acquisition.
According to the ABS-CBN, these investments are part of the renewed Armed Forces Modernization Act, which took effect in 1995, giving the military a chance to modernize its assets and equipment in 15 years with a $7.5 billion (P331-billion) investment. Back in the 1990s the original program was stalled, but following an evolving conflict with China over the control of the Spratly archipelago last year, President Aquino signed a new modernization law to provide more resources to the military’s upgrade efforts.
The cost of the current modernization program could reach $2 billion (P85 billion). The acquisition program in this budget is the procurement of 12 A/T-50 jet trainers from South Korea, at an estimated cost of about $450 million (P18.9 billion), and a number of naval vessels, acquired from the USA and Italy. The program is funded by nearly $330 million (P15 billion) annual allocation set aside in the national budget until 2017. Additionally, over $100 million (P4.78 billion) will come from proceeds of the Malampaya natural gas project, in which the government has a share from taxes, royalties and charges, and remittances from the Bases Conversion and Development Authority.