House OK’s bill advancing defense program, local arms and equipment

House OK’s bill advancing defense program, local arms and equipment

By Beatriz Marie D. Cruz, Reporter

THE HOUSE of Representatives on Tuesday approved on third and final reading a bill seeking to bolster the Philippines’ defense program through the investment and purchase of local defense equipment.

With 194 yes votes, three no votes, and zero abstentions, congressmen approved House Bill (HB) No. 9713.

The Senate approved its counterpart bill in December amid increased and ongoing tensions with China in the disputed South China Sea.

HB 9713 seeks to develop the country’s national defense industry, ensuring that local components and indigenous materials are affordable and readily available.

The bill essentially “limits the acquisition of material and components from foreign suppliers,” except when the equipment or parts cannot be locally manufactured, or if the acquisition or foreign technology or knowledge would help local markets create their own versions of such.

Enterprises that buy local defense equipment would be entitled to fiscal incentives.

Once enacted into law, the Department of National Defense (DND) must enter into multi-year contracts or multi-year contractual engagements for the manufacture, service, and operation of defense equipment.

In December, Iloilo Rep. Raul C. Tupas, who chairs the House Committee on National Defense, said the country’s defense program has “lost its momentum” due to insufficient funding and incentives for the private sector, lack of strategic direction and a weakening local market due to reliance on foreign aid.

Meanwhile, congressmen gave final reading approval to a measure seeking to prohibit the production and use of chemical weapons in line with the country’s international commitments under the Chemical Weapons Convention.

All 197 lawmakers voted in favor of HB 9571, the proposed Chemical Weapons Prohibition Act.

The proposed law aims to “adopt and pursue a policy of freedom from chemical weapons,” prohibiting their development, production, acquisition, stockpiling, use, transfer, or retention in the country.

If enacted into law, the Philippine National Authority on Chemical Weapons Convention (PNA-CWC) would be designated under the Anti-Terrorism Council and will be headed by the latter’s executive secretary and chairperson.

The measure also details the duties of the PNA-CWC to ensure the prohibition of chemical weapons.