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Arming the Army

THE economy grew at 6.2 percent but not everyone was blessed, or impressed. Now take a look at how the Armed Forces have modernized, to the tune of P60.14 billion, to make the soldiers who guard our air, land, and sea stand straighter, taller.

A sampling of where that money went: 8 attack helicopters. 114 armored personnel carriers (they look like tanks).

120 ambulances. 2 FA-50 airplanes. 5 naval helicopters. 2 navy ships. 3 medium life aircraft. Radios and trucks. Close to 100,000 assault rifles.

Those weapons and machines my eyes can see, even when what they see are mere photographic likenesses. Unlike the GDP, which may be a big deal to economists but means little more than three letters of the alphabet to ordinary folks, the modernization of the Armed Forces is a dream come true for the men and women in uniform, their families, and fellow citizens who have been embarrassed for too long by an army without arms, an air force without airplanes, a navy without boats – a fighting force rich in fighting spirit and little else, such as bullets in short supply and shoes in the wrong sizes.

Well into his second can of Coke (regular) for the night – “no ice, ice dilutes the taste” – during a farewell dinner with us girls, the President did not dismiss my question, “How much is 60B?” Ever ready with notes and numbers, the obsessive-compulsive President who reads military and history books produced a slip of paper showing how previous Presidents regarded the AFP: Arroyo (2001-2010, 9 years) spent P26.2B; Estrada (1998-2000), P5.5B; Ramos (1992-98), zero.

And as good weather is preferred to fly a plane, sail a boat, win a battle anywhere, it is not mere happenstance that military people as well as civilians can relate to PAGASA leveling up from “hoping only” to a 97.4 km forecast track error, better than the 120 km error threshold of the World Meteorological Organization! Project NOAH and its scientists save lives in fair and foul weather, and the sun shines on PAGASA’s budget growing from P766 million to R3.4 billion.

Say what you will about the branding success or failure of “daang matuwid,” but by arming the Armed Forces and providing sunny weather for PAGASA, this President has made his mark. (JULLIE Y. DAZA)