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DND defends shelving of missile project

/ 05:36 PM July 07, 2015

THE Department of National Defense said its decision to shelve the alleged “realignment” of the P6.5 billion shore-based missile system (SBMS) from Israel, an item that would have been useful to counter China’s threat in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) in favor of items for internal security operations, was only a “reprioritization.”

In a statement on Tuesday, DND’s public affairs office chief Director Arsenio Andolong said the project was merely a “proposal.”

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“[T]here is no realignment but rather a reprioritization of the said project in favor of the urgent need of our [Philippine Army] troops for individual force protection equipment,” he said.

The said reprioritization “was a collective decision by senior Defense leaders, which was submitted to the President after going through the required processes in the Defense System of Management that took into consideration the dynamics of the country’s ever developing security environment.”

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A report by the Philippine Daily Inquirer said that Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, outgoing Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. and Army chief Lt. Gen. Hernando Iriberri, were responsible for removing the SBMS project.

The project was supposed to be part of the first phase (2013 to 2017) of the revised Armed Forces modernization program, but instead was moved to the second phase (2018 to 2022).

Quoting a source, the Inquirer reported that the funds were realigned in order to have commissions. The deal with Israel had no commission because it was a government -to-government deal.

The three officials allegedly proposed to realign the P6.5 billion budget for a new shopping list, which include marksmen rifles, chemical-biological-radiological-nuclear protective gear and long-range sniper weapons. President Benigno Aquino III approved the realignment last June 15.

Three days later, Eal Ben Haim, acting president of Israel Military Industries, wrote Aquino to remind him of the contract, the newspaper said in the report.

“We optimistically hope for the timely issuance of the notice of award and contract for your SBMS acquisition so that we may be honored to have the SBMS infrastructure realized, delivered, and installed during your incumbency and just in time for the Apec (Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation) meeting in the Philippines,” Haim’s letter said.

The DND and the Israeli Ministry of Defense spent years negotiating the contract, which was finalized last December.

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DND said Gazmin will never be a party to nor condone graft and corruption in the AFP Modernization Program.

The Philippine Army, meanwhile, also denied the allegations of “commission” and said it was a “pure lie.”

“We want to assure our people that whatever actions the PA had undertaken on the matter are all for the best interest of your Army and for the welfare of our soldiers,” Iriberri said.

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TAGS: Features, Global Nation, missile project, West Philippine Sea
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