Proposed 2019 defense budget higher amid budget cuts in other agencies

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Soldiers in Marawi City. (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 30) — The proposed 2019 budget for the Department of National Defense (DND) is ₱251 billion, ₱49 billion higher than their current budget.

₱183 billion was allocated to personnel services — to increase the compensation for civilian and military personnel, as well as to provide for a pension increase for retirees.

"'Yun pong increase namin malaki, ito po 'yung dagdag sa second tranche ng ating increases for personal services. Kaya po malaki," DND Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said during House Appropriations Committee deliberations Wednesday.

[Translation: Our increase is huge. This is the addition to the second tranche of increases for personal services, and that's why it's huge]

This ₱47 billion hike is in line with President Rodrigo Duterte's directive in January to increase the salaries of military and police personnel, one of his campaign promises in 2016.

The hike comes despite a cut in the budget of other government agencies, such as the Department of Education. Its proposed funds were cut by ₱51 billion, from over ₱580 billion in 2018 to ₱528 billion in 2019.

Meanwhile, the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) seeks a 30 percent increase in their 2019 budget, with the bulk of it going to the Philippine National Police.

'Martial law is working'

Lawmakers and defense officials also discussed martial law in Mindanao.

"Martial law is working in Mindanao. Although there are some pockets of trouble there like the groups of Maute, BIFF (Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters) and Abu Sayyaf in Basilan and Sulu. It is working in other fronts," he said.

He claimed getting good feedback from Mindanao citizens.

"In fact we get feedback kung pwede raw tuluy-tuloy na [it should not stop]," he added.

Lorenzana had earlier said he is open to further extending military rule in Mindanao, beyond the two extensions Congress granted in 2017.

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief-of-Staff Carlito Galvez wants continuous vigilance in the region, as the ISIS-inspired Maute group responsible for the five-month Marawi City crisis is still actively recruiting members.

"Nakita po namin talaga na ang ating greatest threat would be the ISIS-Maute group. Considering their connection with Afghanistan and ISIS with Syrian ISIS talagang evident," Galvez said.

[Translation: We saw that our greatest threat is the ISIS-Maute group, considering their connection with Afghanistan and ISIS with Syrian ISIS, it's evident.]

The AFP Chief also said they can defeat the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) rebels in Mindanao as reflected in the number of surrendering insurgents.

"We are estimating that in two or three years time, we will defeat the CPP near in the near future," he added.

Galvez also affirmed Lorenzana, saying Martial law helps in improving the state of security in the Mindanao.

He said from January this year, the military was able to neutralize 800 communist rebels, and confiscate 5, 504 high-powered firearms from a number of anti-terrorism operations.

He added, about 200 members of local terrorist groups have also surrendered