Home statements As Marcos Jr. Intensifies Pursuit of Advanced Weapons, ICHRP Calls for Opposition to AFP Modernization Program

As Marcos Jr. Intensifies Pursuit of Advanced Weapons, ICHRP Calls for Opposition to AFP Modernization Program

As Marcos Jr. Intensifies Pursuit of Advanced Weapons, ICHRP Calls for Opposition to AFP Modernization Program

Press Release
February 27, 2024

Despite continuing the militarist policies of his predecessor, Rodrigo Duterte, resulting in systematic, large-scale violations of human rights and International Humanitarian Law (IHL), Philippine President Marcos Jr expects the international community to finance a massive re-equipment of his armed forces, which is notorious for skimming off supply contracts.

In January this year, Marcos Jr signed off on a revised version of the AFP Modernization program launched under President Benigno Aquino III in 2013. The revised military modernization plan called “Re-Horizon 3” expects to spend a gigantic sum of two (2) trillion Philippine pesos (US$35 billion) on military equipment over ten years. This modernization is taking place at a time when the Philippines has abrogated all agreements to respect international humanitarian law that it had signed in peace talks with the NDFP and while remaining outside of ICC jurisdiction. 

Since its foundation in 2013, the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP), a global formation, has been calling for reviews, suspensions and cancellations of all military aid to the Philippines because of the gross and systematic violations of human rights and IHL. Especially with Duterte in 2016, these violations have greatly expanded with no apparent reaction from the regime’s military suppliers, including the US, Australia, Canada, Japan, South Korea and Israel.

Marcos Jr now looks abroad for more military support for his intensive counter-insurgency campaign, and  attempts to please the US in its military build up against China. We again urgently call on the international community to oppose weapon sales and military aid to the Armed Forces of the Philippines Modernization program. The so-called “modernization” of the AFP will only put the Filipino people further at risk and only aid the US military build-up in the Asia Pacific. 

Sweden, France, Spain, India and South Korea are currently bidding to supply submarines, aircraft and advanced surveillance and communications capacities to Marcos Jr. 

Following India’s recent donation of supersonic missiles, over 20 defense companies from the South Asian nations visited the Philippines to explore further collaboration. Sweden is working with the Philippine government on a major fighter jet deal. 

France’s Naval Group offered two diesel-electric Scorpene-class submarines. This comes after news of France’s intentions to create a Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the Philippines fashioned after the US VFA. Navantia, a Spanish government-affiliated company, offered two S80-class Isaac Peral submarines costing $1.7 billion and offered to build the submarine base, and South Korea’s Hanwha Ocean (formerly known as DSME) offered its stealthy Jang Bogo-III submarines, with guided-missile systems.

These proposed military deals come in the wake of the US military pivot to Asia. Following the April 2023 decision for four more US military bases in the Philippines, the US has committed US$9.1 billion to its Pacific Deterrence Program for 2024, which provides funds for its allies in the western Pacific, including bases and airfields in the Philippines, Australia and the Northern Mariana Islands. The US will deliver three new C-130J-30 Super Hercules airlifters worth $400 million between July 2026 and January 2027 and negotiations are also underway for the potential sale of American F16 fighter jets. This comes in addition to yearly foreign military financing coming from the U.S. NATO member countries and allies like Canada, France, the UK and Japan are following the lead of the US and joining the increasing number of military exercises conducted in the Philippines, including the upcoming Balikatan exercises in April. 

Claire Chastain of ICHRP Europe, based in Spain, and current Deputy General Secretary of the ICHRP Global Council stated, “Attempts of European countries to strengthen military ties with the Philippines and strike arms sales are based on profit, not people. For people based in Europe, we must use this moment to oppose military deals with the Philippines and raise solidarity support for people in the Philippines facing the brunt of militarization.” 

While the Marcos Jr regime may fashion this military build-up in the name of defense, it will only further exploit the Filipino people and make them more vulnerable to the AFP and to any military clash between the US and China. Arms purchases abroad will be paid for by the Filipino people and the taxpayers of the supplier countries, principally the US. Filipino civilians will be the main casualties in any resulting military clash. 

Reverend Jeong Jin-woo of the ICHRP Global Council based in South Korea commented, “We stand with the Filipinos in their clamor for just peace. While the Marcos Jr regime continues the intensive red-tagging and attacks against the Filipino people under the frame of counter-insurgency, we firmly oppose the modernization of the AFP, which will only make the Philippines and people in the Asia Pacific more vulnerable to the impacts of war.”

While the Marcos Jr administration has expressed intentions to resume peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, the regime’s push to build up its military arsenal threatens the prospects of peace. Human rights and IHL violations in the Philippines have their roots in landlessness, joblessness and widespread poverty, and the Philippine military and police are deployed against popular movements trying to address these very problems. The AFP Modernization Program budget should be re-aligned to genuine agrarian reform and national industrialization to help resolve the roots of poverty and achieve just and lasting peace in the country. ICHRP urges that there be zero military aid and arms deals to the Philippine military and police while the government continues its fascist repression in the cities and the countryside. ###

Contact: Peter Murphy, Chairperson, International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines. Email: [email protected]