The Department of National Defense (DND) on Wednesday has been asked to utilize its idle assets, including some 150-hectare golf courses, to modernize the military.

Senator Franklin Drilon, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee that is scrutinizing the proposed P1.816 trillion national budget for 2012, said that the DND could enter into a long-term lease agreement with private real estate developers to “better utilize” the military’s golf courses, the proceeds of which could help in military modernization.

“I don’t think that we need these golf courses. What we need is to modernize our Armed Forces,” Drilon said.

“They just rely on yearly appropriations but their assets are totally underutilized,” he added.

The military has five golf courses—Air Force, Navy, Army, AFP general headquarters, and Veterans Memorial Medical Center (VMMC)—with an estimated area of 150 hectares and value of about P45 billion, according to Drilon.

It was disclosed during the DND budget hearing on Wednesday that the VMMC’s 33-hectare golf course, which is presently valued at P11.5 billion, only earns some P1.6 million annually.

Drilon said properly using the golf courses, for example, would help improve military capability, despite the fact that some P30 billion has already been released for the AFP modernization for the last 15 years. For next year, only P5 billion is allotted to capital outlay, which will be used for military modernization fund.

“They can enter into a long-term lease with developers and generate lease rentals which should be sufficient, on a yearly basis, added to the budget for capital outlay. At P45 billion, if you just say 10% return, that is P4.5 billion a year without selling,” said Drilon.

In Southeast Asia, Drilon pointed out, the Philippines has the lowest ratio of active military staff to civilian population. For about 95 million Filipinos, there are only 125,000 in the active service, as compared to Thailand which has 305,000 military personnel to 63.5 million population, Indonesia, 438,000 military to 245 million population and Malaysia with 109,000 military personnel to 28 million population.

“In terms of equipment and manpower, our Armed Forces is in a very sorry state and is very inadequate… In the view of the committee, there are enough assets that can respond to the needs of the AFP if these assets are properly utilized,” said Drilon.

“For the past several years, there is simply no initiative taken to look for other sources of funds. They just rely on the GAA when in fact right there on their doorsteps are assets which can be utilized, which are totally underutilized. You cannot justify 150 hectares of prime land in Manila used only for golf courses,” he said.