The Philippines may spend more than P90 billion (US$1.995 billion) for the second phase of modernizing its military in the six years after 2017, defense officials said Wednesday.

“Mayroon nang estimate… It’s much higher than P90 billion,” defense undersecretary for finance, munitions, and materiel Fernando Manalo said.

Manalo made the remark in a press briefing to present the status of modernization projects under what the defense department calls the “first horizon.”

The first horizon effectively started 2014 and will end on 2017.

Under this phase, the government is spending P90.858 billion to buy warships, fighter jets, helicopters, an air defense radar system, other various equipment, and will upgrade existing bases.

Many of these projects are already being implemented and the government shows capacity to pay, so the “second horizon” can already be implemented by 2017, Manalo said.

The second horizon is slated to be implemented until 2023 while the third horizon will run from 2024 to 2028.

Manalo declined to specify what types of equipment will be acquired under the second horizon, but said these will mostly be for disaster response and protecting territories in the disputed West Philippine (South China) Sea.

“It is sufficient [to say] we are heavy on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief and protecting our interest in the West Philippine Sea,” he said.

Defense department spokesman Peter Paul Galvez said incidents in the West Philippine Sea were “much considered” for the Armed Forces’ modernization.

Manalo hinted that more fighter jets may be bought under the second horizon, saying that the current 12 being bought from South Korea is “way way below than what is needed by the Air Force.”

Defense assistant secretary for acquisitions, installations, and logistics Patrick Velez, for his part, said the Navy may already have five to six frigates at end of the third horizon.

“Where we are right now, we are in the first stages but enough to address some concerns of the Armed Forces… We are moving on from this capability towards the full capability of the AFP to provide for credible deterrence,” Velez said. (John Roson)

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