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Zubiri vows to increase DND's 2024 budget: 'Hindi tayo payag na ma-bully'

Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri

Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri said Wednesday that the Senate will allocate more funds to the P229.9 billion proposed budget of the Department of National Defense (DND), including the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), for next year to beef up the Philippines’ defense operations.

The Senate Committee on Finance has approved the proposed 2024 budget of the DND and its attached agencies, including the revised AFP Modernization Program, “subject to possible budgetary adjustments.”

It will then be again submitted to the Senate plenary for deliberation and approval.

During the hearing, Zubiri committed to increase the DND and AFP’s budget for next year, expressing full support to the agency’s efforts to defend the country amid the tension with China in the West Philippine Sea.

“But you know my dear friends, courage can only take us so far. And that is why, if we really want to truly defend our country and our seas, we must support their budget. Not only the budget that they have now… We’re going to support, through the efforts of the Senate, an increase in their budget, especially in the defense spending,” the Senate President said.

Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr., in his presentation, noted that the DND sought a total of P229.9 billion funding under the 2024 National Expenditure Program (NEP).

This was a 12% increase over the P204.5 billion budget allocated for the agency under the 2023 General Appropriation Act (GAA).

The bulk of the proposed 2024 budget amounting to P221.6 billion is set to go to the AFP, which will be divided among the Philippine Army, Philippine Air Force, Philippine Navy, and the general headquarters, AFP and AFP-wide service support units.

Teodoro’s office will get P1.2 billion; while the remaining P7 billion will go to civilian bureaus like the Government Arsenal, Office of Civil Defense, National Defense College of the Philippines, Philippine Veterans Affairs Office, and Veterans Memorial Medical Center.

As to the AFP Modernization Program, Teodoro said the agency initially requested for P115.1 billion but was only granted P50 billion.

For his part, Zubiri said that the Senate is willing to fund the replacement of any equipment the DND thinks has already been compromised.

He also said that the Senate will conduct an executive session with the DND to discuss the adjustments to the proposed budget.

He stressed that he will not allow the Philippines to be bullied by the country in the North, pertaining to China.

“Hindi tayo pumayag na ma-bully tayo ng ating kapitbahay sa Norte [we didn’t allow our neighbor in the North to bully us]. Because of that, we hear you loud and clear. We need more defense spending in our modernization project… We’re here to support you. You’ll see a drastic difference in your budget come this December,” Zubiri said. —KG/KBK, GMA Integrated News