The thwarted sale of assault rifles to the Philippine National Police (PNP) should prompt the government to jumpstart a program to locally manufacture arms and military equipment, Senate Minority Leader Ralph Recto said today.
“It is a wake-up call for us to stop totally relying on foreign suppliers,” Recto said, referring to the decision of the U.S. State Department to halt the sale of about 26,000 assault rifles after an American senator announced he would oppose it on concerns of state-sanctioned human rights abuses.
“This is another kind of pivot we need. To tap our domestic industries for the equipment needs of our policemen and soldiers,” Recto said.
“Hindi naman pwede na mula helmet hanggang boots imported. If some of the things can be made locally and the products are of the same price and quality as the ones bought abroad, then let us manufacture them here,” Recto said.
Recto cited the existence of a vibrant local firearms industry which has been exporting its products for many decades now.
“What is Made in Marikina is as good as what is Made in America,” Recto said, referring to one local gun manufacturing complex in Marikina.
“There are many of them, from boat builders to vehicle manufacturers, who can step up to the plate once there are firm orders from the government,” Recto said.
He said the country’s car manufacturing industry can supply military and police vehicles, “foreclosing the need to buy them abroad.”
Recto said President Duterte’s home province of Cebu can even build coastal patrol ships.
“If we’re buying boats either for coastal, river, environmental or fisheries patrol, then let our local shipyards make them. The weaponry can come from abroad pero siguro yung barko pwede na dito,” he said. “If other nations find our ships exceptional, then we should too.”
Though many equipment, like planes, can only be bought abroad, Recto said those which can be built here should be given preference. “If some components of the imported ones can be manufactured here, then we must require it.”
Recto explained that by buying local, government will be creating local jobs and giving the manufacturing sector a much-needed boost. “The Filipino tax pesos must help Filipino firms.”
“Buy local, create jobs. This should be the new mantra of the DND, DOTr and other government agencies for their procurement programs,” the senator added.
“What we can manufacture here, we don’t have to import from abroad. One good example are the car plates. A small piece of tin we sourced from the Netherlands when we are already building megaton ships,” he said.
Government, he said, is a huge supplies and equipment shopper. This year it will be buying P74 billion worth of supplies and materials, from “common-use” office items to vehicles.
To the extent allowed by law, Recto said government must prefer local products or those with high local content.
But in choosing local, “price points should not be the sole consideration,” he said. “We should not be buying a lemon just because it is wrapped in a Philippine flag. Quality should not be sacrificed.”
Recto recalled a provision in previous national budgets–which has been scrapped in the General Appropriations Act for 2016– which mandated government purchases of Philippine-made products.
“This provision should make a comeback in the 2017 budget,” Recto said.