Monday, December 18, 2017
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Breaktime

Turkish daylight

The motor-biking Duterte Harley already shifted the defense spending of his administration away from so-called external threats.

In his statement as chair of the Asean summit last week, our macho leader even left out any reference to the Chinese military installations in the Spratlys.

Critics said it was a rather soft stand by this tough-talking guy.

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Let’s do the math: Our 2017 defense budget is P137 billion (about $2.7 billion), a hefty 17-percent increase from the last. Only P25 billion of it, or $500 million, goes to the “military modernization” program.

The 2016 defense budget of China was more than $150 billion!

Under the previous administration, the “modernization” fully emphasized defense spending for external threat—i.e. China.

But Duterte Harley already stated that costly hardware like secondhand jet fighters was way above our means and a total waste of money. He also said the “modernization” must focus on supplies for soldiers such as proper combat equipment, surveillance drones and fast boats.

By the way, Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade recently went to France, accompanied by three other top officials, namely, Coast Guard chief Joel Garcia, Bases Conversion and Development Authority president and CEO Vivencio Dizon, and Transportation Undersecretary Cesar Chavez. All four of them had to inspect the facilities of a French company that sold us fast boats way back in September 2014.

That was really a high-powered team going all the way to France for four boats bought almost three years ago.

Anyway, the Department of Defense (DND) has officially shifted the “modernization” to address the needs of the armed forces against internal threats. This meant the AFP would gear up against insurgents in Mindanao, heavily armed drug syndicates, and well-funded terrorist groups.

Duterte Harley also ordered the AFP to equip its personnel for night combat. At the same time, he also wanted the DND to review past contracts.

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Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana already initiated an investigation into a P1.2-billion contract for some 4,500 military night goggles, among other supplies. In the last days of the administration of Benigno Simeon, aka BS, the AFP allegedly awarded the contract to Turkish company Aselsan in record time.

The DND under Duterte Harley alleged the bidding was rigged. The bids and awards committee (BAC) supposedly made the rules as sweet as Turkish delight for Aselsan.
The goggles would always have this “image intensifier tube” or IIT, and the BAC specified a “maximum” diameter of 0.85 mm.

That spec actually elicited protests from the potential bidders at that time, since it excluded manufacturers in the US. The US government only allowed IIT exports with a minimum diameter of 0.85 mm.

The magic number was 0.85 mm! Except that, well, the “maximum” set by the BAC was the “minimum” allowed by the US government.

In effect, the supplier must provide all those 4,500 IITs with the exact 0.85-mm diameter, which the potential bidders found impossible. No such thing as “exact” diameter in IIT.

To top it all, only a handful of companies from all over the world made IITs, and the biggest should be the US-based Harris Corp., which the BAC effectively eliminated from the bidding.

That was the daylight for the Turkish firm Aselsan.

From what I heard, the BAC members traveled to Turkey for the “post-qualification” to check on the specs of the Aselsan IITs.

Surprise! Aselsan would sell to our military the same IITs made by Harris. No wonder, Aselsan could not provide a “certification” from Harris with regard to the “maximum” diameter.

No problem, the BAC simply waived the requirement for the certification.

The DND then found out that Aselsan allegedly presented a certification from another Turkish company called Transvaro, said to be the subcontractor of Aselsan.

By the way, the AFP team that went to Turkey was led by a general in the “modernization” program during the time of BS.

Such was the thing we did with our measly defense budget.

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