The Defense Department is lobbying to realign the P6.5 billion Shore-Based Missile System to counter China’s threat in the South China Sea, according to documents obtained by The Standard.
The mobile SBMS is part of the Army’s “big-ticket items” and included in the 1st Horizon Project List in the Revised Armed Forces of the Philippines Modernization Program, which was approved by Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin but yet to be approved by President Benigno Aquino III.
Defense insiders say the project did not pass through the Defense Capability Assessment and Planning Systems and the Defense System of Management. If not justified, they warn, the proponents of the realignment may face legal charges and jail terms.
They say the project is a government-to-government deal with the Israel Military Industries Ltd. in December 2014. They say the realignment of the SBMS negates the President’s promise for the AFP to have a “minimum credible defense” posture before he steps down from office in 2016.
The supplier was just waiting for the awarding of the contract when suddenly Irriberi requested a realignment.
On March 5, 2015, Gazmin, in a letter to Aquino, sought the approval of 28 RAFPMP projects with a total budget of P60,143,404,181, which includes the SBMS. This was after the President, on February 17, ordered the DND to review all the projects and to make sure these, particularly the SBMS, will not violate the Convention on Cluster Munitions.
Irriberi wrote an undated letter in May to AFP chief of staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. seeking his approval to re-align the SBMS.
“The Philippine Army presented the need to adjust the 2015 acquisition of Shore-Based Missile System…This is due to the rapid change in the internal security landscape brought about by the issues on the Bangsamoro Basic Law and the prevalent use of IED (improvised explosive device) of the threat groups that inflicted significant casualties on our troops,” Irriberi said.
“The emerging security situation is further driven by the continuous military operations against the BIFF (Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters) and ASG (Abu Sayyaf Group).”
The BBL, although it is still to be passed by Congress, has already started the decommissioning on both fighters and arms of the much bigger rebel organization, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
Irriberi said the Army, as end-user, saw the importance of the SBMS for the country’s territorial defense in the West Philippine Sea but the soldiers involved in internal security operations need more individual protective gear “in view of the of clear, present and continuing occurrences of terrorist acts perpetrated by enemies of the state.