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Gov’t seeks Congress nod on additional AFP funding

/ 05:07 AM September 04, 2017

The Duterte administration will be asking Congress to allocate additional funding this year to allow the Department of National Defense to replenish the supplies of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) that have been expended in the course of the battle in the southern Islamic city of Marawi now on its fourth month.

In a press briefing, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said the supplementary budget request that would soon be sent to the House of Representatives would include a provision for the hiring and training of an additional 20,000 soldiers.

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“So far, the AFP has had enough funds to replenish their supplies, so that hasn’t really been a problem,” said the finance chief, who is also the head of the administration’s economic team. “The big problem is going to be rebuilding the number of soldiers that we need to expand the military.”

“The number that we heard is something like 20,000 new soldiers,” Dominguez told reporters.

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The AFP has an estimated 172,000 active personnel divided among the Army, Navy and Air Force. A 20,000 increase in its headcount will raise its manpower complement by almost 12 percent.

Dominguez said he was waiting for a report from Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on how much the armed forces would need to replenish munitions, equipment and fuel, among others, that have been expended in the long-running siege of Marawi.

At the same time, however, the finance chief downplayed the fiscal impact of the war on the broader fiscal picture of the country.

“With regard to tax collections [in Marawi], obviously there’s a conflict and [tax] collections there would be zero,” he said. “But quite frankly, they don’t contribute a lot to the national tax collection numbers anyway.”

“The big thing is the expense on what we are spending there, and actually in the Ledac meeting last Tuesday we discussed the possibility of bringing to Congress a special bill for additional money,” he said, referring to the Legislative Executive Development and Advisory Council. “Congress said they will look at it, but we did not have the exact figures and [Budget] Secretary Benjamin Diokno and I spoke to Secretary Lorenzana to make sure that he comes up with the estimates as soon as possible.”

Regardless of the amount that the DND will request from Congress, Dominguez assured the public that the government could shoulder the fiscal cost of the Marawi conflict, including the funding necessary to rebuild the bombed out infrastructure of Marawi once the conflict ends. —DAXIM L. LUCAS

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