After so many years the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is nearing its objective of fully transforming itself into a modern military force consistent with the plan envisioned and embodied in Republic Act No. 7898 aiming to modernize all branches of the AFP such as the Philippine Air Force (PAF), Philippine Navy (PN) and the Philippine
Army (PA).

The law to modernize the AFP which was enacted in 1995 was later on amended in 2012 by Republic Act No. 10349 otherwise known as the Revised AFP Modernization Act but the intention was the same which is to fully modernize the AFP within 15 years divided into three horizons with a projected budget cost of 40 billion dollars. Beginning in 2013 to 2017 ‘Horizon One’ was implemented which resulted in the country buying three (3) Del Pilar-Class Frigates, twelve (12) FA-50PH light-lift interim fighters, and two (2) strategic sealift vehicles, among other vital military equipment.

From 2018 to 2022 the second phase of the AFP modernization or ‘Horizon Two’ was implemented with former
President Rodrigo Duterte approving the shopping list and with a budget of about 300 Billion pesos or 5.6 Billion
dollars. Under the ‘Horizon Two’ phase of the AFP modernization we expect the military to be outfitted with corvettes, additional offshore patrol vessels, a landing platform dock, upgrades for the Del Pilar-class Frigates, transfer of a Pohangclass corvette, tactical combat vehicles, mortars, and other equally important military equipment.

In a second list for ‘Horizon Two’ purchases we find that it also included shorebased anti-ship missile system as well as a shore based air defense missile system. Since 2018-2022 and up to the present some of these modern military hardware have been purchased with others still awaiting final approval or undergoing final negotiations for their procurement. So slowly and surely the country is transforming the AFP into a formidable force to be reckoned with here in SouthEast Asia.

At the moment when compared with the other South East Asian Countries in terms of military power the Philippines is ranked 5th with Vietnam taking the top spot, Taiwan coming in at second, Thailand at third and Singapore in 4th place. (https:// countries-listing-asia.php) Whether these are reliable rankings remain to be seen since militaries all around the world are of the secretive nature.

But what should give us hope in these uncertain and dangerous times is the fact that under the administration of President Bongbong Marcos, considering the ongoing rift with China regarding the Spratly Islands and the Western Philippine Sea (South China Sea), an official approval has already been issued to continue with the full modernization of the AFP and the implementation of the third and final phase of the plan under the so called ‘Horizon Three’.

This third phase of the military upgrade is sought to be reconfigured so the procurement of military hardware will be aligned and connected with outward defense. This was stated recently by AFP Chief of Staff General Romeo Brawner Jr. who came up with the recommendation in order to enable the military to capably defend its maritime territories
such as its exclusive economic zone (EEZ). And along this line, the third phase of the AFP modernization will finally see the realization of the long time wish of the military to be equipped with its first ever submarine.

There are a lot of offers but at the moment the country and the AFP seems inclined to favor the Scorpene class submarine being offered by France and Spain. Will this ultimately serve as an effective deterrent against the incursions being made by China  in the country’s EEZ? Definitely, a healthy fear of water is second only to the fear of being hit by something underneath the sea while afloat.

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