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New AFP chief defends scrapping of planned purchase of missiles

(Updated 2 p.m.) Newly installed Armed Forces chief of staff Lt. Gen. Hernando Iriberri on Friday defended their decision to scrap the planned purchase of a shore-based missile system and instead, procure helmets, night goggles, and body armor.
In an interview with reporters, Iriberri said he was the one who requested for the purchase of the helmets, night goggles, and body armor as he deemed it more important to protect the soldiers during encounters.
“We requested it to be moved because as a commanding general of the Philippine Army, umikot ako and sa dami ng binisita ko, alam ninyo po ba na from 2014 to 2015, ang ating casualty sa kasundaluhan ay 280 at ang nasugatan ay 908 na,” he said shortly after assuming the top military post earlier in the day.

Prior to being named military chief, Iriberri served as commanding general of the Philippine Army.

“Makikita mo hindi sana sila namatay, hindi sana sila nasugatan kung mayroon man lang silang tamang helmet at saka body armor. Kaya lang dahil sa kakulangan wala tayong maibigay kaya nagkaroon tayo nang ganyang kalaking casualty,” he added. 
He said he asked the leadership to look into the needs of the soldiers prioritize their protection.
“Iyon ang naging reason, naging basehan kung bakit nirequest ko, I requested for it. Gusto kong bigyan ng pansin yung pagbigay ng tamang proteksyon sa kasundaluhan, regardless, whether it is for internal or external defense,” said Iriberri. 
He reiterated the argument of the Defense Department that the SBMS is just a proposal.
“Wala pa pong mga approval diyan kaya we made a counter proposal for the best interest ng Philippine Army at ng ating kasundaluhan. 
Iriberri denied that that they made the realignment to get commissions.
“Kasinungalingan yan. Wala na kaming ibang iniisip, as the commanding general of Philippine Army, kundi yung interes ng Army, ng ating kasundaluhan, para magampahan  yung aming papel bilang protektor ng ating bayan,” he said.  

Earlier, the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported that Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, retired AFP chief of staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang and Iriberri removed the P6.5 billion shore-baed missile system (SBMS) deal between Israel and the Philippines from the list of military hardware to be procured by the government.
The report, quoting an unnamed source, said the realignment was done because a government to government contract will yield no commission. 
The Department of National Defense has since denied the allegation, saying “reprioritization was a collective decision by defense senior leaders, which was submitted to the President after going through the required processes in the Defense System of Management, which took into consideration the dynamics of the country’s ever developing security environment.” — RSJ, GMA News