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Marcos committed to continuing AFP modernization program – military official

A military official said Thursday that President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. has committed to continuing the modernization program of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

"The President has made sure that the AFP modernization program will continue, now that we are into Horizon 3 already; some procurements are already being processed," AFP spokesperson Colonel Medel Aguilar said at a public briefing.

"And we expect delivery of big items that will modernize and will equip the AFP to be more capable in performing its mission," he added.

Aguilar made the statement when asked about Marcos’ directives regarding the modernization program.

In July, DND spokesperson Arsenio Andolong said a new list of projects would be resubmitted to Marcos for his approval.

The Philippines is also looking to buy heavy-lift Chinook helicopters from the US after canceling a deal with Russia worth P12.7 billion ($227.35 million) to avoid sanctions related to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, according to Manila's Ambassador to Washington Jose Manuel Romualdez last month.

Moreover, Aguilar said the AFP would prioritize the healthcare system for soldiers as well as sustain the social benefits for their dependents.

"The Armed Forces will continue to prioritize the healthcare system para sa ating mga sundalo. Magkakaroon tayo ng intervention [in] the mental health system because you know the stress of performing a job especially in combat areas," he said.

(The Armed Forces will continue to prioritize the healthcare system for our soldiers. We will have an intervention in the mental health system because you know the stress of performing a job, especially in combat areas.)

"And at the same time, we will also sustain the comprehensive social benefit program for the families of our soldiers. Actually, there are already existing systems and processes that are being followed to make sure that the benefits of our soldiers and their dependents are properly taken care of."

The call for better mental health services for soldiers came after former soldier Winston Ragos was shot dead by a Quezon City police officer in April 2020. He was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

According to AFP General Hospital neuropsychiatric service chief, Major Christine de Jesus, there are only 15 psychologists and two psychiatrists working in the Philippine Army as of 2020.

Aguilar said the AFP was also willing to help in the construction of hospitals for veterans in Visayas and Mindanao.

He said the AFP was ready to provide technical support and engineering construction to speed up the construction of these hospitals. —VBL, GMA News