Senator Win Gatchalian wants the government to improve the country’s defense capabilities by pursuing self-sufficiency in the manufacture of basic weaponry, munitions, and armaments.
During the Senate hearing on the Special Defense Economic Zone Act (House Bill No. 6525), sponsored by Bataan 2nd District Representative Jose Enrique “Joet” Garcia, national defense officials explained that at present, about 20 million rounds of bullets are being imported by the Philippines from countries like Brazil, South Korea, and Spain. This comprises 30% of the total ammunition requirement of 60 million rounds of bullets that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) needs every year.
The remaining 70% are being manufactured locally. However, the Department of National Defense (DND) stressed that raw materials required in the production, such as copper, nickel, and brass, are still being sourced from outside the country.
Senator Gatchalian explained that the country may not be “on stable ground” if it continues to rely on importing its defense requirements, citing some possible implications it might have on maintaining the national arsenal reserves and improving the marksmanship skills of troops.
However, the senator said the bill would still need to undergo further scrutiny to ensure that it is the best means of achieving the goal of self-reliance.
House Bill No. 6525 aims to convert the country’s existing Government Arsenal located in Camp Gen. Antonio Luna, Limay, Bataan into a Special Defense Economic Zone (SpeDEZ), and establish the Special Defense Economic Zone Authority (SpeDEZA), which shall manage the SpeDEZ in line with the AFP Modernization Law (RA 7898).
Calling it a “very unique proposition,” Gatchalian said the Department of National Defense (DND) would first have to justify why a legislated ecozone should be created instead of an administrative ecozone under the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA). At the hearing, PEZA said that DND has a pending application with them for the establishment of an ecozone.
“We also want to see a detailed plan-of-action and timetable needed for the creation of the ecozone. This experiment will cost about PHP 3 billion over 5 years so we have to make sure that it will be sustainable,” the senator added.
Meanwhile, he assured the AFP that Congress will continue providing the funds it needs in modernizing the military capabilities of the country.
“We are in support of our soldiers and troops on the ground. We are all here to find ways to make sure that our troops are being given the necessary equipment to enable them to protect and bring stability to our country. All of these are paperwork, but in the end, the lives of our soldiers in line of duty are the most important,” Gatchalian said.