Budget for PH arms deal with US should be rechanelled to health services, food aid for poor Filipinos — Karapatan

Human rights group Karapatan questioned the Philippine government’s planned acquisition of billions of pesos worth of war materiel and armaments from the United States amid calls for increased public funding for public health services and financial aid for poor families in light of the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The reported sale of US attack helicopters, missiles, and rockets, which will be deliberated upon by the US Congress this month, would cost the Philippine government from ₱22.7 billion to ₱75.8 billion — a whopping amount which we could use to address the immediate needs of public hospitals, health workers and poor families who are grappling with lack of personal protective equipment, ventilators, testing kits and food. This plan, alongside the government’s draconian measures during the quarantine period and the president’s shoot-them-dead orders, begs the following question: is the government’s priorities fully skewed towards inciting war against the people instead of putting the public’s right to health and food first?,” Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay asked.

In press releases of the US Department of Defense Cooperation Agency released last April 30, 2020, the Philippine government has requested to buy either of the following arms packages:

a. Estimate cost at $450 million: six (6) AH-1Z attack helicopters; fourteen (14) T700 GE 401C engines (12 installed, 2 spares); seven (7) Honeywell Embedded Global Positioning Systems/Inertial Navigation (EGIs) with Precise Positioning Service (PPS) (6 installed, 1 spare); six (6) AGM114 Hellfire II missiles; and twenty six (26) Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS) all up rounds. Also included are communications equipment; electronic warfare systems, AN/AAR-47 Missile and Laser Warning System, AN/ALE-47 Countermeasure Dispenser System, AN/APR-39 Radar Warning Receiver, seven (7) M197 20mm machine guns (6 installed, 1 spare), Target Sight System (TSS), 5,000 20mm Semi-Armor Piercing High Explosive Incendiary (SAPHEI) rounds, two (2) AIM-9M Sidewinder training missiles, MJU-32 and MJU-38 Magnesium Teflon pyrotechnic decoy flares, flight training device, LAU-68 rocket launchers, LAU-61 rocket launchers, support equipment, spare engine containers, spare and repair parts, tools and test equipment, technical data and publications, personnel training and training equipment, US government and contractor engineering, technical, and logistics support services, and other related elements of logistics and program support.

b. Estimate cost at $1.5 billion: six (6) AH-64E Apache attack helicopters; eighteen (18) T700-GE-701D engines (12 installed, 6 spares); fifteen (15) Honeywell Embedded Global Positioning Systems/Inertial Navigation (EGIs) with Precise Positioning Service (PPS) (12 installed, 3 spares); two hundred (200) AGM-114 Hellfire missiles; twelve (12) M36E9 Hellfire Captive Air Training Missiles (CATM); three hundred (300) Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS) Kits; one thousand seven hundred (1,700) Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS) Guidance Sections; six (6) AN/ASQ-170 Modernized Target Acquisition and Designation Sight/AN/AAR-11 Modernized Pilot Night Vision Sensors (MTADS/PNVS); six (6) AN/APG-78 Fire Control Radars (FCR) with Radar Electronic Units (REU); six (6) AN/APR-48B Modernized-Radar Frequency Interferometers (M-RFI); eight (8) AAR-57 Common Missile Warning Systems (CMWS) (6 installed, 2 spares); two hundred (200) FIM-92H Stinger missiles; eight (8) Manned-Unmanned Teaming-2 (MUMT-2i) Video Receivers (6 installed, 2 spares); and eight (8) Manned-Unmanned Teaming-2 (MUMT-2i) Air-Air-Ground Kits (6 installed, 2 spares). Also included are eight (8) AN/AVR-2B Laser Detecting sets (6 installed, 2 spares); eight (8) AN/APR-39C(V)l+ Radar Signal Detecting sets (6 installed, 2 spares); fourteen (14) Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radio Systems (SINCGARS) radios (12 installed, 2 spares); fourteen (14) UHF/VHF/LOS airborne radios (12 installed, 2 spares); eight (8) AN/APX-123A (V) Common Transponders (6 installed, 2 spares); eight (8) IDM-401 Improved Data Modems (6 new, 2 spares); eight (8) AN/ARN-149 (V)3 Automatic Direction Finders (6 installed, 2 spares); eight (8) Doppler ASN-157 Doppler Radar Velocity Sensors (6 installed, 2 spares); eight (8) AN/APN-209 Radar Altimeters (6 installed, 2 spares); eight (8) AN/ARN-153 Tactical Air Navigation sets (TACAN) (6 installed, 2 spares); four (4) TACAN Ground Stations; eight (8) Very High Frequency Omni-Directional Range/Instrument Landing Systems (VOR/ILS) (6 installed, 2 spares); three (3) AN/PYQ10(C) Simple Key Loader (3 new); six (6) M230El + M139 AWS Automatic Gun (6 new); eighteen (18) M261 rocket launchers (12 new, 6 spares); eighteen (18) M299 missile launchers (12 new, 6 spares); six (6) rocket motor, 2.75-inch, MK66-4, Inert (6 new); six (6) High Explosive Warhead for Airborne 2.75 Rocket, Inert (6 new); eighteen (18) Stinger air-to-air launchers (18 new); twelve (12) Stinger Captive Flight Trainers (CFT) (12 new); six (6) Stinger Aerial Handling Trainers (AHT) (6 new); five thousand (5,000) each 2.75 inch rockets (5,000 new); eighty thousand (80,000) 30mm rounds (80,000 new), training devices, communication systems, helmets, simulators, generators, transportation and organization equipment, spare and repair parts, support equipment, tools and test equipment, technical data and publications, personnel training and training equipment, US Government and contractor technical assistance, technical and logistics support services, and other related elements of logistics support.

At least ₱275 billion has been approved by the Duterte administration for emergency funding to purportedly address the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the 2020 budget for public health services, there has been an overall reduction of ₱10 billion, including budget cuts by as much as ₱147.5 million for disease surveillance, according to the Coalition for People’s Right to Health.

Palabay also asserted that “such war materiel and arms from the US and other countries have been used to violate people’s rights.” In Karapatan’s documentation of human rights violations under the current administration, at least 456,103 civilians have been forcibly evacuated from their homes, with their ancestral domains, communal areas and homes destroyed or looted from, in the course of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) bombings and indiscriminate firing on communities. Victims have identified the AFP’s use of attack helicopters, jet fighters, howitzers, grenade launchers, and bombs, including white phosphorous bombs, in the said attacks.

“These arms and war materiel will only be used to further inflict rights violations, harm, distress and loss of lives and properties. We call on members of the Senate and the House of Representatives to look into and reconsider this government plan for ostentatious warmongering, and to instead rechannel the budget to much-needed health services and food programs. The Filipino people need public health facilities, just compensation for health workers, and medicines and food to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, not attack helicopters and missiles,” Palabay ended.