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Speaker vows House aid to boost AFP operations

Speaker Martin Romualdez
Maricel Cruz

Speaker Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez on Friday thanked the “courageous and dedicated” Filipino soldiers protecting the nation, while reaffirming the House of Representatives’ steadfast commitment to bolstering the operational capabilities of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

Speaking at the forum organized by the National D fense College of the Philippines Alumni Association at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City, Romualdez underscored the crucial role of the AFP in protecting national sovereignty amid ongoing global tensions, notably in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

“Our nation stands at a pivotal juncture, where the ripples of global tensions are felt even within the serene waters of the WPS. It is here that our brave men and women in uniform stand as sentinels of sovereignty, safeguarding our nation’s territory against the ceaseless tides of adversity,” the leader of the 300-plus-strong legislative chamber said.

“The House of Representatives, fully aware of the weight of this responsibility, has been unyielding in its commitment to fortify the operational capabilities of our Armed Forces. We have embarked on a strategic journey, not only to modernize our military assets but also to ensure that our personnel are equipped with the fortitude of skill and the assurance of a nation’s unwavering support,” he added.

Romualdez reiterated the House’s commitment to bolstering the nation’s defense capabilities through the proposed P5.768-trillion 2024 national budget, allocating P282.7 billion to the defense sector, a 21.6% increase from the 2023 budget.

“Our commitment to safeguarding our territorial integrity and ensuring the safety of our citizens remains unwavering. As a nation, we must take proactive measures to enhance our defense capabilities and ensure that we have the necessary resources to effectively protect our sovereign rights,” he said.

The defense budget is allocated to support critical initiatives such as the “Land, Air, and Naval Forces Defense Programs,” amounting to P188.5 billion, along with contributions to the United Nations Peacekeeping Mission, among others, all aimed at ensuring robust domestic security.

The amount does not include P1.23 billion in confidential and intelligence funds. The House strategically realigned these funds to frontline agencies tasked with ensuring national security and safeguarding the country’s territorial rights in the WPS, Romualdez noted.

This strategic reallocation includes P300 million to the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency, P100 million to the National Security Council, P200 million to the Philippine Coast Guard for intelligence activities and ammunition, and P381.3 million to the

Department of Transportation for the development or expansion of Pag-Asa Island Airport, he said.

“This allocation demonstrates our dedication to maintaining a strong and credible defense posture, one that sends a clear message that we will not compromise when it comes to safeguarding our national interests,” Romualdez said.

“We must remember that a strong defense is not merely a tool for confrontation, but a means to uphold peace, stability, and the rule of law,” he said.

At the same time, Romualdez restated the House’s support for President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.‘s position on asserting sovereignty in the WPS and emphasized the significance of legislative measures, including recent laws like Republic Act 11939, aimed at fortifying the military’s professionalism and modernization initiatives.

He also outlined upcoming bills, including those addressing the Department of National Defense’s transformation and the establishment of a Special Defense Economic Zone.

The Speaker stressed the House’s commitment to the welfare of uniformed personnel, citing increased base pay, expanded healthcare benefits, and housing projects.

He highlighted the passage of House Bill (HB) No. 8969, providing a reformed pension system for military and uniformed personnel (MUP), ensuring economic stability, and demonstrating commitment to national security.

“But what does all this mean for our future, for the peace we so dearly pursue? It means that as we chart the course for tomorrow, we do so with the confidence that comes from a military that is not only capable and well-equipped but also respected and cared for.

“It means that as we navigate the complexities of geopolitical negotiations, we do so with the assurance that our armed forces stand ready to uphold our sovereignty with honor and integrity,” Speaker Romualdez pointed out.

He continued: “As we move forward, let us remember that each vessel we commission, each new weapon we procure, and each policy we enact in support of our military is a testament to our resolve as a nation. A resolve to protect our land, our people, and the freedoms we hold sacred.

“In conclusion, let the message go forth from this gathering that the Philippine military is strong, our resolve is steadfast, and our commitment to the welfare of our soldiers is unshakeable. Together, we will continue to stand as valiant guardians of peace, for today, for tomorrow, and for all the days to come,” Romualdez said.

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