Modernizing the Philippine Military
Image Credit: REUTERS/Erik De Castro

Modernizing the Philippine Military


During his recent State of the Nation Address (SONA), President Benigno Aquino reiterated his desire to upgrade the capabilities of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). However, he cautioned that this is not something the government can easily pursue. Aquino further suggested that building a “minimum credible defense” would face challenges due to budgetary constraints. The AFP has very limited funds; in fact, an overwhelming majority of its military budget goes to personnel salaries and allowances, rather than defense capability upgrades. In addition, the 1987 Constitution prohibits the government from allocating more funds to the military than for education. In the proposed 2014 budget, PhP255.2 billion ($5.9 billion) was earmarked for the Department of Education and another PhP31.9 billion ($742 million) for state universities and colleges; a mere PhP81.8 billion ($1.9 billion) will go to the Defense Department and the AFP combined.

Not surprisingly, then, some analysts openly question whether the country can really afford to modernize its aging military or even establish a minimum credible defense – the two main defense priorities for the government. This situation frustrates both Philippine and foreign military planners who are eager to improve the military capabilities and capacity of the country; but is a reality that any serious military planner must accept and consider. Obviously, these measures require a long-term vision, patience and significant funding. The question then becomes: has the current Administration committed the country to any of these disciplines? Until the Philippine government more clearly defines how it intends to develop this strategy, and demonstrates the political will and commitment towards this end, potential antagonists will not regard the Philippine defense posture as either credible or capable.

Military Acquisitions Insufficient

The theory of minimum credible defense is a concept that has become popular in the public debate over the modernization of the Philippine military. Unfortunately, for the Philippines this is a very vague concept that the government has articulated poorly. Some government officials simply associate minimum credible defense with the acquisition of new military equipment and the improvement of military infrastructure. Others believe strategic military training is a crucial component of this effort. A high-ranking Department of National Defense (DND) official recently remarked that the government aims to modernize the military to deter “those who want to wage war” against the Philippines.

The DND official noted that the Philippines is planning up to 24 modernization projects  in the next three years. These projects – which the government will fund – include the acquisition of fighter jets, naval helicopters, patrol aircraft, frigates, patrol vessels and multi-purpose attack vessels. Among the most high profile acquisitions, the AFP will purchase three decommissioned Hamilton-class cutters from the U.S. Coast Guard; two are already in the possession of the Philippine Navy. The AFP is also set to buy twelve new FA-50 fighter jets from Korea Aerospace Industries, worth approximately $440 million. These additions to the AFP will undoubtedly help increase its capacity.

That said, many observers fail to recognize that the Philippine military is not that large, and was never designed or, more importantly, developed to provide for the defense of its expansive archipelagic territory. Many experts argue that billions of dollars would need to be invested to reconfigure the Philippine military into a credible defense force. However, with the closure of U.S. bases and the resultant loss of lease revenue, the AFP must now rely on congressional appropriations and AFP modernization funds to invest in new equipment. These sources are not sufficient to carry through modernization plans.

March 7, 2014 at 21:26


April 1, 2014 at 18:21

more budget is needed to continue purchasing modern weapons in order to have a modernized AFP. why not this time defense budget put as the top budget priority instead of education that has been on the top for a very long time. if needs to ammend the constitution so be it. there is a clear threat from china, it’s still not too late to build up our AFP. increase the budget and fast track the procurement processes. get as many as we can right now.

Ave Regencia
February 9, 2014 at 02:23

Let’s avoid unfavorable comments and discussions. Let’s focus on how to strengthen the Philippine defense against the enemies. How do we do this defense if everybody seems to fight each other to show who are good and who are inferior. Every Filipino citizen has a part to make the Philippines strong and stand against any attempts from the bastard poachers. Let’s properly pay our taxes and remove corruption from all government agencies to increase our budget for the modernization of the AFP. The Philippines is a rich country, we only need to properly use all our resources.

kiko pascual
November 22, 2013 at 16:59

negotiate or attack only if your in a position of strength. are we? politically, economically and militarily? for it was a chinese general who said; “and if we are able to attack an inferior force with a superior one,our opponents will be in dire straits”. i hope it’s not too late for the government to properly address our external security issues. if we will continue to rely on negotiations and protests, which china doesn’t recognize anyway, our position will always be the weaker one. Strength is the means by which they are pushing their claim of ownership of the whole philippines sea. Then it is only by strength will they understand that we are ready to defend and protect what is rightfully ours.

October 4, 2013 at 05:20

The Philippines needs to improves the military so we don’t need the help of the united states.but can still be there friends, the Philippines need to be independent.

September 30, 2013 at 14:53

You see once you allow China to "co-develop" the area for natural resources extraction and allow them to put up structures, mind you that they carry a "big stick" (obviously a powerful state), who or what's is stopping them for wanting more? Yes, in the perfect world we can co-develop the area but then again that's in paper or in the perfect scenario. You must realize that China is hungry for energy sources (it's no secret they are increasingly aggressive over the potential energy rich areas in the WPSea) and they will do whatever it takes to secure that for their own interests. The idea of "co-development" by two unequal states in power to protect their interests in the venture is only good in the perfect world. If this "co-development" happens, with China's grand global dominance ambitions, the Philippines will find itself more and more pushed out in the deal and eventually lose whatever that is their share in the end. The Philippines is too weak to protect its interest even in deplomatic agreement, evident during the agreed pullout of ships in the area which the Philippines did but China remained. The same thing will happen if the Philippines will agree to such idea of "co-development".

cesar hernandez
April 10, 2014 at 19:08

It might be true that in Philippine budget, the education must have a bigger slice, but Congress can always make special laws to fund the modernization of the armed forces. 75 billion allocated for 5 years is not enough. another 75 Billion is needed for the next 3 years to supplement that previously approved funding. The country need smaller but faster ships and equipped with multi-systems missiles are urgently needed.

September 30, 2013 at 14:36

You said you are only 13. So here's my advice; continue your reading, learning, and comprehension. You must have missed in the article that says about the constitution prohibits the government from spending more on the military over the education. It is not the President's fault that he cannot spend more than he desires to modernize the military but simply because the constitution explicitly prohibits such fiscal moves. 

December 21, 2013 at 12:05

I’m with you there Nobody, and they all complain. Why they acquired this projects to late or too slow and they will eventually blamed the Top Man in the Archipelago. Ahh Too Much Freedom Right?

September 13, 2013 at 19:03


You are an embarrassment to the US Marine Corps! Devil Dog you need to learn history and educate yourself. I served alongside with proud, dedicated, and honorable Marines unlike you UNSAT no good future dead stupid marine! Educate yourself with the Core Values "HONOR, COURAGE, AND COMMITMENT" then slap yourself with the right hand you raised when you enlisted in the service. You are not just an embarrassment to the CORPS but to the values that America stand for past, present, and the future. I should do a recon on you and track you down… you are a poorly educated piece of killing machine that will eventually get killed by your own weapon "YOU… your stupidity and lack of honor".

You haven't seen or experience REAL WAR and here you are talking about Syria. You are a war fighter but dumb and the enemy are too smart to find your weakest part "YOUR TINY BRAIN".

The Philippines is a strategic outpost and if you learn strategic and tactical scenarios of world wide conflict you wouldn't comment stupidly about the situation in the South China Sea. How will you transit from the west coast of US if the "GATES" of the South China Sea are closed??? Obviously the Army and Marines cannot deploy large amount of materials, equipments, and troops without the US Naval Fleet unless your smart@ss can swim 3 oceans without getting eaten by sharks. The "GATES" are the Straits, international waters, and the main routes for commercial and military shipping. You lose the Philippines you will lose the only country that is trying to stop and without fear to face an overwhelming force. The Philippine Armed Forces is not powerful, not great in numbers, and currently use inferior military equipments BUT THEY WILL FIGHT. The Philippine military is one of the most combat-ready soldiers in the world as they rotate their units to fight against the rebels and terrorist groups in southern Philippines. The Filipinos surrendered alongside their American officers and soldiers during WW2 because they follow their orders to surrender and the only way to "FIGHT ANOTHER DAY" as guerrila units of the USAFFE. I bet you do not even know the meaning of USAFFE… and it is still in Asia as US Forces Far East stationed and manned in almost all countries in East and Southeast Asia. The US military in WW2 did not just land on the beaches of Leyte without logistical and amphibious assault planning! The remnants of the US forces in Philippines with a large number of guerrila units are the ones coordinated diversionary, preliminary, and decoy attacks prior Gen. MacArthur return to Philippines.

I think you are stupidly recruited and like an orphan dog that lived on a box that he only know.

The Philippine military been to WW2, Korean war, Vietnam war, and almost on all conflicts that the US got involved with because the Philippines been our ally and still a strong ally. If the Japanese of WW2 does not know how to surrender and instead do BANZAI attacks to fight and die for their country and Emperor… The FILIPINO'S DO NOT GIVE UP AND SPECIALLY WHEN DEFENDING THEIR MOTHERLAND.

The "Philippine Scouts" of WW2 a regular outfit of the US Army fought gallantly against an overwhelming invading Japanese force. They charged as real cavalry men on horses against Japanese tanks and artilleries… forcing the enemy to retreat and delay their advance. During the Korean War… Philippine soldiers held their part of the frontline to defend South Korea against North Korean and Chinese PLA overwhelming force. The Filipino defense line STOOD THEIR GROUND AND EVEN COUNTERATTACKED the advancing enemy… they were only less than 2,000 Philippine soldiers against thousands after thousands of enemy troops BUT THEN AGAIN THE FILIPINO'S WERE VETERAN OF WW2 FIGHTING THE JAPANESE AND THEIR EXPERIENCE KEPT THEM ALIVE. Vietnam war… again the Filipino's were there to support the US military.

I JUST HOPE YOU ARE NOT ASSIGNED TO ANY USMC MEU or MAG in East or Southeast Asia because I would take you to your Sgt. Major and make you stand by the main gate of the base holding a sign "I do not know my core values… educate me!"





September 5, 2013 at 18:06

Im not anti-american.

August 30, 2013 at 13:57

it was the US Army that liberated the Philippines, not the Marines.

August 30, 2013 at 01:50

Or make some research on the batle of yultong bridge where one batallion of Filipino soldiers fight against 10,000 chinese…just to save American A**…

August 30, 2013 at 01:46

@ Semper Fi…You do not know about history..during WW2 it is the FILIPINO scout who fought valiantly at Bataan just for MC Arthur to escape..and History Repeats itself at the Korean War when Americans are pinned down and all UN Forces..just read the history ….

August 28, 2013 at 23:09

Yes, I so believe that you are American… So very convincing…

Moira Gallaga
August 28, 2013 at 00:45

I think one problem hounding the military's modernization effort is that it places undue focus on acquisition. Almost all news I read about military modernization are efforts to acquire or purchase this or that weapon system. In addition to acquiring the advanced weaponry there is also the need to build and develop the infrastructure to support the utilization of those weapon systems and ensure its sustainability/serviceability. This will entail a lot of money. What I haven't read about all these plans are any effort to develop a local defense industry in partnership with major companies that manufacture and develop these weapon systems and related equipment to support the modernization program. There are so-called Private-Partnership Programs (PPP) for major infrastructure projects such as airports, highways, etc. Why not PPP for establishing assembly plants, manufacturing plants and/or repair facilities that would support our defense establishment? This way jobs and investments are created, and transfer of technology is likewise facilitated. Make it a condition for securing a contract. There is no value added if we simply just purchase or receive the stuff. Oh wait, but this would entail a lot of work and coordination between various agencies. Never mind, coming up with a shopping list and spending money (especially if kickbacks are involved) is way more convenient and less of a headache. Oh well…

August 28, 2013 at 00:24

So you agree that your statement of no one/nothing can challenge china is wrong. Good to know.


Use Google and look up these facts:


1979 – ten of thousands PLA invaders.

1788 – several hundreds thousands Quing invaders.

1427 – several hundreds thousands Ming invaders.

1257, 1284, 1288 - about 300K -500K Mongols/Yuan invaders.


938 - hundreds of thousands Han invaders.

semper fi
August 27, 2013 at 23:03

oh hell yeah, letz let them bad #$%$ U.S Marines in Syria.
i dont kknow if you guys have heard this sayin, "there is no better friend or worst enemy then a U.S Marine" they never give up, they are the ones that win our wars. the few the proud that make it to be a United States Marine Corp. Of course our special forces and snipers are good also, Devil Dogs the Germans called our marines, cause there never stop coming forwards WW2.

I couldnt beleive Philippines was asking for some our military after they kicked out our Marines. Philippines calls itself our ally like many other countries do, after we got kicked out arent we just bussiness partners now.

Philippines Pres.needs to know china is not our enemy, when Philippines was invaded by Japannese, China had already been invaded by japannese just like singapore, malasia, koreas and all those countries. Our Marines didnt just liberate Philippines, also the other countries that had been occupied by JAPAN. when Japan surrender to US, we gave back the country to their people, so we really didnt just fight for the pilipinos, we where there to kill #$%$.

because of our Marines bravery we invaded europe and won the war, but we like to be humble and not arrogant showing off our military toys.

i can wait with syria, we should of bomb N.Korea get some respect of porky boy, he just didnt know how ugly it was going get to him.




 am alwasy happy when i see a ww2 vet, my hat off to the brave.




August 27, 2013 at 00:55

Stop squandering natural resources? RP and PRC? To be fair, our DENR isn't that good in terms of saving what forest cover we have, but unless the PRC drastically overhauls its equivalent ministry, PRC ain't a paragon of conservatism either.

August 27, 2013 at 00:52

That's because despite Noy Aquino's shortcomings, he's still the son of his father. He's seen what it's like to be oppressed (in the form of the Marcos regime) and his upbringing is to never back down from a challenge.

August 27, 2013 at 00:50

Except for those who are aware what losing our EEZ will mean. With one single rig in Malampaya, we already covered part of Luzon island's energy needs. More could drastically lower our energy costs in the decades to come. Add the fact that we need the fish stock to support our over 90M population too. Losing those resources will affect us in the long run. This is what we've been trying to fight for.


If China wanted access to those, it could have made a deal and paid for what it needed. But no, it seems it would rather brandish force first and then declare that a bilateral agreement must be made.

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