The Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption said Thursday the government should prioritize funding for disaster and health crisis response over the purchase of Navy ships and hypersonic missiles amid the depletion of state funds.
VACC president Arsenio Evangelista said in a statement in times of crises, it would be very difficult to justify the purchases of ships and hypersonic missiles that may never be used against the Chinese Navy.
The VACC slammed the alleged misplaced priorities and apathy to the plight of millions of Filipinos hard-hit by a killer typhoon that wreaked havoc last week in the Visayas and Mindanao.
He asked the government to put off the procurements of ships and missiles until a more appropriate time comes around. The VACC leader was referring to the procurement of OPV vessels worth P30 billion and the P18.9-billion BrahMos missiles for the Philippine Navy.
“In this time of our national health emergency, national security must temporarily take a backseat to economic security. In order to defeat the terrible socioeconomic effects of the COVID pandemic, what we need are vaccines and not ships and missiles. Let us use these billions to raise our affected regions from the devastation of Odette and to quickly purchase the right vaccines that will help us develop the herd immunity that will return our people to peaceful and economic productivity,” he said.
Evangelista said President Rodrigo Duterte admitted that “our budget is immensely depleted because of the COVID. Our money was really wiped out”.
“Then, all of a sudden, we find out that the Department of Budget and Management released initial funds for P50 billion worth of defense projects that may be reset to 12 months later,” he said. “President Duterte will never prioritize fund releases for these projects, given that he has openly declared that government funds have been immensely depleted.”
Evangelista said sound judgment dictates that priority should be given to the suffering of countless typhoon victims who have to fight tooth and nail just to survive on a daily basis.
He said the country is reeling under the pressure of two very serious crises including the pandemic and the aftermath of super Typhoon Odette.
“Our affected central regions are now fighting a war for survival in the aftermath of this calamity and devastation. The dire lessons of Yolanda have taught us that they will need tens, perhaps even hundreds, of billions of pesos to survive and recover,” Evangelista said.
Evangelista said a few days before the onslaught of Odette, the DBM released P3.75 billion as down payment for two ships.
“This comes from the same government that said there are limited funds for ‘ayuda’ and vaccines to address the COVID pandemic which has taken the lives of more than 51,200 Filipinos and continues to exact its daily toll upon our nation,” he said.