Sponsorship Speech on Senate Bill No. 2455: Self-Reliant Defense Posture (SRDP) Revitalization Program Act

Mr. President, distinguished members of this august chamber, ladies and gentlemen, as your Chairperson of the Senate Committee on National Defense and Security, Peace, Unification and Reconciliation, it is my honor to sponsor an important legislation that will fortify our defenses against present and future security challenges and provide the essential and meaningful support to our valiant men and women who risk their life and limb to preserve peace and secure our territory.

Senate Bill No. 2455 under Committee Report No. 153 authored by Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri, Senate President Pro Tempore Loren Legarda, Majority Floor Leader Sen. Joel Villanueva, Sen. Ramon Bong Revilla, Jr., Sen. Imee Marcos and this representation, is a priority measure identified under our Philippine Development Plan 2023-2028 and by our Legislative Executive Development Advisory Council or LEDAC.

The Self-Reliant Defense Posture bill or SRDP, as the name suggests, aims to ensure adequate defense assets and hardware for the country through domestic production and manufacturing, the development of a national defense industry, and lessening our dependence on foreign and overseas suppliers.

As relayed by the Department of National Defense (DND) during our public hearing, majority of our defense acquisitions are government-to-government procurements. In 2022, military-related imports totaled approximately 305 million dollars, while arms-related exports amounted only to 85 million dollars. We aim to cure this significantly lopsided trade imbalance by providing incentives and government support to local defense industry, and in the process stimulate job generation, promote transfer of advanced technologies, and expand our exports sector.

Hindi natin maitatanggi na sa maraming pagkakataon, ang Pilipinas ay nakatanggap ng mga kagamitang pang-militar mula sa ating mga kaibigan at kaalyadong bansa, na nakatulong nang malaki upang mapataas at mapalawak ang kakayahan ng ating sandatahang lakas. Ngunit, hindi po tayo maaaring masanay na naghihintay at umaasa na lamang sa mga donasyon at gawa ng ibang bansa.

As we have all learned from this pandemic, the safest and most reliable source of the nation’s needs is the domestic one.

This representation firmly believes that we have enough resources we need in our midst – manpower assets, natural resources, and Filipino ingenuity forged by our long history and tradition of seafaring and craftsmanship. No doubt, we have the capability to develop our own. We just have to throw our full support and lay down policies that will catalyze its growth, and exercise political will and strategic foresight to sustain its development.

Our neighbors in Southeast Asia, like Indonesia and Singapore, already have their own defense industries, and their relatively modest military-industrial complexes are slowly expanding with heavy investments, and finding their niche in the global defense market. Others found renewed interest and saw the wisdom behind nurturing their own indigenous arms manufacturing, in the face of regional tensions and political realignments.

Mr. President, the SRDP program is actually not new. This measure seeks to revitalize the SRDP Program which was initially conceived and implemented during the 1970s. Recalling his younger years as a cadet, Vice Chairperson Sen. Bato dela Rosa shared during our public hearing: “Mayroon na tayong pagawaan ng missile noon, mayroon na tayong pagawaan ng mga mini cruiser, sariling sasakyan ng military…”

Sen. Imee Marcos in submitting her own version of the SRDP bill – also remembered with much pride that her father’s SRDP program was able to manufacture armaments such as “M16 rifle, 60mm Mortar tube, 81mm Mortar Tube and gun barrels, ammunitions, hand grenade MKII, and 81mm Mortar ammunition, and that the country was able to produce vehicles like the jiffy jeeps, mini cruisers, hovercraft, speed boats, and whale boat,” among others.

The early years of the SRDP program successfully met the basic requirements of the AFP through joint ventures and partnerships with the private sector. It produced all-terrain light vehicles, radio for the operating troops, rifles, pistols and small arms ammunition, and textile industry that supplied close to 100% of AFP’s clothing requirements. In the 1980s, “SRDP had contributed significantly in improving the fill-up of AFP’s basic weapons, ammunitions, tactical communication sets, and mobility equipment”.

Mainly due to tightened defense appropriations, lack of prescience, and discontinuity of long-term horizon planning, the program was not able to fully soar and prosper.

In light of the continuing foreign harassment and recent incursions on Philippine waters and within our Exclusive Economic Zone, it is imperative that we build up our arsenal and naval fleet, not to provoke further hostilities, but to maintain a respectable and credible defense posture that can effectively deter aggression and defend our territorial domain.

Gayunpaman, ang kahalagahan ng panukalang ito ay hindi limitado sa usapin ng tanggulang pambansa. Ito ay sumasakop din sa pagpapataas ng antas ng ating kakayahan sa pag-responde sa panahon ng sakuna at kalamidad. Moreover, we envision this bill not only as a means to ensure inventory of traditional military items, but also to advocate and fire up technological advancements and development of products with commercial applications.

Under this bill, the Self-Reliance Defense Program shall be designed to:

• prioritize local employment and contribute to foreign currency exchange savings;

• incentivize manufacturers to establish or relocate production or assembly of materiel in the Philippines, while ensuring protection of local counterparts against unfair competition;

• promote technology transfer;

• drive proactive research and development efforts and the adoption of innovative technologies; and

• promote the export of locally-made materiel to other countries.

Finally, this bill proposes rationalization of defense acquisition by providing preferential terms to domestic suppliers and in-country enterprises, under the ambit of Filipino First policy.

Just as this Senate took a unified stand in strongly condemning the harassment of Filipino fishermen and the persistent incursions in the West Philippine Sea, I urge my dear colleagues to also rally behind this timely legislation that would modernize and upgrade the capacities of our armed forces.

Thank you, Mr. President.