House pledges strong support as AFP turns 88: Funds for enhanced defense, increase presence in WPS

Speaker Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez today reasserted the House of Representatives’ commitment to providing funds for President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.’s initiatives to strengthen the capabilities of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), especially in safeguarding the country’s interests in the West Philippine Sea.

Romualdez was among the officials accompanying President Marcos during the celebration of the 88th Anniversary of the AFP at its headquarters in Camp Emilio Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

“Our men and women in uniform are the steadfast guardians of our nation’s security. We owe them our deepest gratitude and firm support,” said Romualdez, leader of the 300-plus member House of Representatives.

“The House aligns with President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.’s vision of a modern and well-equipped AFP, capable of effectively asserting our territorial sovereignty and maritime rights,” he added.

He highlighted that this commitment is reflected in the newly passed P5.768 trillion 2024 National Budget, which allocates P285.69 billion to the Defense Sector, marking a significant increase compared to the P203.4 billion allocated in 2023.

Romualdez noted that the House has strategically realigned P1.23 billion in confidential funds from civilian agencies to frontline agencies responsible for national security and the protection of the country’s territorial rights in the WPS.

The House leader also reiterated his commitment to ensuring that the defense of the West Philippine Sea, spanning from Scarborough Shoal or Bajo de Masinloc off Zambales and Pangasinan in the north to Ayungin Shoal in Palawan in the south, is adequately funded.

“We are resolute in our goal to ensure a future where our fishermen can fish in peace, and our natural resources are managed sustainably for the Filipino people,” he declared.

The 2024 budget includes P1.5 billion for the expansion and development of the airport in Pag-asa Island.

An additional P800 million is set for constructing a shelter port for fishermen and boats in Lawak, Palawan – the island nearest to Ayungin Shoal, where Filipino soldiers man a rusting Navy vessel, grounded there in 1999 as a symbol of Philippine presence.

These funds, Romualdez explained, will support the AFP’s modernization, including purchasing advanced military equipment, patrol boats, aircraft, and communication systems, thereby enhancing maritime and border patrol capabilities.

Romualdez mentioned that the AFP can also rely on the House’s support for initiatives aimed at improving the welfare and compensation of AFP personnel, acknowledging their dedication and ensuring their morale.

Recalling last September, the House passed House Bill No. 8969, the “Military and Uniformed Personnel Pension System Act,” authored by Speaker Romualdez. The bill proposes a guaranteed three percent annual salary increase for MUP for the first 10 years after the law’s enactment.

Romualdez explained that the proposed law aims to balance the provision of monthly pensions and other benefits to uniformed service personnel, ensuring sustainability while being equitable to them and the national government.

“Together, the House and the Marcos administration are committed to empowering the AFP, protecting our territorial integrity, and fostering a brighter future for all Filipinos,” Romualdez concluded.

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