Our unsolicited advice to our President-elect Digong Duterte is not only to revive the ROTC but to consider certifying as urgent in Congress the enactment of a CONSCRIPTION LAW and SRDP LAW. Below is a speech delivered by our Chairman and CEO, Gene Cariño, a few years ago which was probably "ahead of its time" and now had become much more relevant. Please share this post as wide as possible in order to reach our President-elect Digong.

Philippine Air Force, Armed Forces of the Philippines
SMX Convention Center
June 13, 2013

Good afternoon to everyone. My name is Gene Carino and I am the founder and chief executive of United Defense Manufacturing Corp.

In support of our country’s SELF RELIANT DEFENSE POSTURE PROGRAM or SRDP. My talk will be two-fold:

1st , it will be about the need to have more men and women in the military reserve force who can, in times of national emergency, augment the meager number of personnel that we have in the regular AFP.

2nd , it will be about the need to develop our defense technology and manufacturing capabilities as a defense industry that promotes our own locally manufactured products.

In the year 2001, under the Philippine Republic Act No. 9163, the Reserved Officers Training Corp or ROTC program was incorporated into the National Service Training Program, which allowed students to choose to undergo training for civic service other than the ROTC. But the irony is that today, we need more men and women to defend our country. Men and women in the military reserve corps who are trained, can be armed and ready to form part of our national defense under a Conscription Law, which I propose, that already exists in many countries, among them Switzerland, Singapore, Israel, South Korea and many, many other countries.

Conscription in Switzerland

The Military of Switzerland perform the roles of Switzerland’s militia and regular army. Under the country's militia system, professional soldiers constitute only about 5 percent of military personnel; the rest are male citizen conscripts 19 to 34 years of age.

The structure of the Swiss militia system stipulates that the soldiers keep their own personal equipment, including all personally assigned weapons and ammunition, at home. Annually, approximately 20,000 persons undergo basic military training for a duration lasting from 18 to 21 weeks.

Conscription in Singapore

Conscription in Singapore called National Service, requires all male Singaporean citizens and non-first-generation permanent residents who have reached the age of 18 to enroll for national service. They serve a 22 to 24-month period as Full Time National Servicemen, conscript soldiers for short.

Singapore is among the list of countries with a national service exceeding 18 months and a reservist obligation lasting up to age 40 for enlisted men and age 50 for officers.

Conscription in Israel

Conscription in Israel covers all Israeli citizens over the age of 18, although non-Druze Arab citizens of Israel are exempt; other exceptions are made on religious, physical or psychological grounds. The normal length of compulsory military service is three years for men and two years for women. Many of the soldiers who complete their mandatory military service are later obligated to serve in a reserve unit in accordance with the military's needs.

Conscription in South Korea

South Korea has mandatory military service of 21 months (army), 23 months (navy), 24 months (air force and civil service), 30, 34, and 36 months (special civil service). There are no alternatives for “conscientious objectors” except imprisonment. In general, with very few exceptions, most South Korean males serve in the military. The duration of service varies from branch to branch of the military.

Conscription in the Philippines

In the Philippines, military service is voluntary. We are not only weak in weaponry, military hardware and defense systems but we are also weak in terms of the number of “multiplier force” or military reservists.

In 2001, under the Philippine Republic Act No. 9163, the ROTC program was incorporated into the National Service Training Program (NSTP), which allowed students to choose to undergo training for civic service in lieu of ROTC. I personally believe this was a mistake. Aside from re-making ROTC compulsory, we should have our own Conscription Law just like other countries. In my personal view, it should not be a choice between ROTC and the planting of trees.

Imagine that out of 100 million Filipinos, we could have as much as 20 million able-bodied men ready for military training. Aside from that, it is a known fact that Filipinos love guns. You would easily have 5 million Filipinos who own guns, licensed and unlicensed. On hindsight, our politicians should have included in the newly passed Firearms Law the requirement for military training or military service as a pre-requisite for the licensing of a firearm, particularly assault rifles. Imagine 5 million men and women who are armed and properly trained for military service at a moment’s notice? Isn’t it a great militia defense force that will support the regular military consisting of a meager 130,000 men and women of the AFP? Of course, the concept is a bit far out, simplistic and exaggerated but at this time of external threats to our national security, we should really be thinking of creative ways to harmonize our laws, those that affect national defense and security.

Local Manufacturing of Assault Rifles

Way back in the 1970’s up to the 1980’s, there was a Filipino company called ELITOOL, but production processes in the production of M16 rifles were quality-controlled by COLT Firearms of the US. If I am not mistaken, the plant was mothballed in the second half of the 1980’s.

Unfortunately those M16 rifles produced by ELITOOL in the early 1970’s are still the same old rifles being used by our Armed Forces today, save for those which have already been permanently retired or de-milled. Now, come to think of it, the rifles made by ELITOOL are now nearing almost 50 years old! Anyway, DND has already procured 50,000 M4 rifles to replace those.

But, ladies and gentlemen, ELITOOL was reborn in the image and likeness of a new company, 100% Filipino-owned, named “United Defense Manufacturing Corp.” but of different ownership, without foreign technical assistance, without foreign financial assistance and without foreigners in the company.

Seven years ago, my family and a loyal friend established United Defense Manufacturing Corp. and with meager resources, set ourselves on a journey to revive our country’s capability to manufacture the M16 assault rifle. When we set sail in 2006 to produce our own assault rifle in Paranaque City, we did not have the Technical Data Package being used by ELITOOL at that time. We have no access to it nor can we use it due to possible patent infringement issues. We also have no need for it because we believed at that time and had in fact proven it, that making rifles is not rocket science. Now our company has its own home grown Technical Data Package which we built from scratch, not to mention two Philippine patents issued for our designs which improved the original M16 rifle.

In the meantime, we have already started producing our assault rifles for local commercial sales and export sales. It makes us proud to inform you that our locally made assault rifles are now being used by several foreign private maritime security companies against pirates in the high seas protecting not only merchant vessels and its cargoes but also its highly dominant Filipino crew. On the other hand, the Philippine Navy’s Naval Special Operations Group or NAVSOG continue to field test the UDMC rifles in particular the PVAR gas-piston model which suits their fighting environment.

But the path to success was bumpy. There were cheerleaders and also detractors. Our success was only made possible through the support and assistance given by the Philippine Navy and the Philippine Army dating back to 2008. The Phil Air Force involvement in our project was limited, but the PAF- SPOW unit has tested our weapons at Clark about two years ago. The support extended to us thus far by the Armed Forces of the Philippines has encouraged awareness of not necessarily who we are and what we can offer to the AFP but also highlighted the need for the revival of the Self-Reliant Defense Posture Program.

Inevitably, modern weaponry and modern defense equipment and systems are an extension of world politics and international diplomacy. Without these modern equipment, our political will as a nation is, sadly, laughable. We cannot continue buying from foreign sources what our Filipino engineers can produce locally. Small arms are just one of them. Ships and vessels can already be produced in-country and in the meantime, we can buy the big guns and fire-control systems from foreign sources. Our shipbuilders and ship repairers in this country are comparable if not better than others internationally. For the Air Force, there is the Philippine Aerospace Development Corp. established in 1973 with a mandate to design, assemble and/or manufacture aircrafts and aviation equipment. For artillery shells, CRESSER is very much capable to manufacture the needs of the AFP. For the small arms ammunition and pistols, ARMSCOR is ready to supply the AFP. But, United Defense, PADC, CRESSER, ARMSCOR and other local defense manufacturing companies need a continuing stream of revenues not only to survive but also to GROW and diversify into other fields of defense articles manufacturing.

Now is the time for reviving the Self Reliant Defense Posture Program. Though foreign technologies are always thought of as better, our political leaders, the DND and the AFP will need to execute a paradigm shift and start imbibing the same sense of nationalism, patriotism and pride of Singapore, Indonesia, Israel and South Korea, all of whom have started by crawling decades ago in developing and promoting their own self reliance on defense and are now exporting their products to the Philippines and other countries.

With these thoughts and challenge coming from a private citizen and entrepreneur, I wish the Philippine Air Force, the AFP and the DND all the best in its endeavors to revive the SRDP. Thank you