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A round of 105 mm howitzer is more than the price of a core shelter

Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews
Sunday, 31 August 2008 16:52
MAGUINDANAO (MindaNews/30 August) – At a firebase somewhere in Maguindanao last week, soldiers told Manila-based journalists that they fired around 200 rounds of 105 mm howitzers in 24 hours.
Hajji Faisal, who accommodated some 30 families of displaced villagers from neighboring barangays in his compound along the highway to Datu Piang narrated how bombs were being dropped from planes and “bazooka kahit ala una ng umaga” (they were firing bazookas even at 1 am.).
The cost of one round of 105-mm howitzer is P30,000, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Hermogenes Esperon, who recently retired as Armed Forces Chief of Staff, told MindaNews

Easily, government spent at least P6 million from that firebase alone on that day alone.

The cost of government’s core shelters for displaced families who lost or will lose their homes to war this year has remained at P25,000 each.

In the 2000 war, the core shelter cost P15,000 each. In 2003, it was P25,000. In 2008, it’s still P25,000, five thousand pesos less than one round of 105 mm howitzer,.

The military has set up firebases in strategic areas in Maguindanao, Lanao del Norte, North Cotabato and Sarangani – areas where Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) elements clashed with government forces or attacked villages and are now being hunted.
On August 14, at a firebase along the highway in North Cotabato, this reporter stopped counting at 100, from the pile of canisters that once contained the 105 mm howitzers. On August 22, MindaNews columnist Gail Ilagan stopped counting at 132.

“It’s expensive, basta expensive,” Esperon said when asked for the cost of other ammunition.
In his presentation before the 4th Mindanao Media Summit in Davao City on August 8, Esperon told reporters that in the “all-out war” waged by then president Joseph Estrada in 2000, “it was estimated that an average of 20 million pesos a day or a total of 1.133 billion pesos were eaten up during the whole period of the drive.”

“Aside from the huge military spending, the war still took the lives of 431 soldiers and wounded 624 more,” he said.

Damage to infrastructure was pegged at 202 million pesos while 125 million pesos worth of crops, livestock and fisheries were destroyed, Esperon said.

In the 2003 war in Buliok – the base of the MILF after the fall of Camp Abubakar in 2000 – “47 million worth of agriculture produce were wasted and 130 million worth of infrastructure devastated, among others.”

While “only a score of soldiers perished during the said campaign,” the military cost in terms of ammunition spent, Esperon said, “should remind us how expensive that month-long campaign had been.”

The ammunition consumption of just a single Army battalion during that period, he said, was P20.51 million.

In the graph Esperon showed, the battalion spent 212,019 rounds of 556 mm (ball) worth P2.39 million; 53,667 rounds of 7.62 mm linked at P1.15 million; 26,821 rounds of 7.62 mm (ball) at P410,000; 2,407 rounds of 40 MM (M203) at P3.86 million; 126 hand grenades at P80,000; 356 rifle grenades at P80,000; 10,348 rounds of caliber 30 LMG at P590,000; 16,967 cal. 50 HMG linked at P100,000; 1,200 rounds of cal. 50 (ball) spotting at P2.96 million; 799 rounds of 81 mm mortar at P3.71 million; 448 rounds of 90 mm RR at P8,71 million and 300 rounds of 25 mm at P90,000.

MindaNews computed the cost per ammunition based on these figures and this is how it looks:
-one round of 556 mm (ball) is P11.27 each;
-one round of 7.62 mm linked is P21.43;
-one round of 7.62 mm (ball) is P15.28 each;
-one round of 40 mm (M203) is P1,603.65;
– a hand grenade costs P634.92 each;
– a rifle grenade costs P224.72;
– one round of Cal. 30 LMG is P57.01;
– one round of caliber 50 HMG linked is P5.89;
– one round of cal. 50 (ball) spotting costs P2,466.66
– one round of 81 mm mortar costs P4,643.304;
– one round of 90-mm recoilless rifle costs P19,441.96 each; and
– one round of 25 mm costs P300 each.

From 1970 to 1996 an estimated 100,000 soldiers, rebels and civilians were killed in the conflict between the government and Moro rebels. Fifty-five thousand were wounded.
In the 2000 war, 120 civilians died either in a crossfire or in the evacuation centers, in Pikit alone .

In the 2003 war, 84 civilians died in Pikit alone.
In 2000, nearly a million villagers were displaced by war; in 2003, a little over 400,000.
In 2008, at least 100,000 persons have been displaced by the recent skirmishes and at least 40 civilians have been killed – 33 in Lanao del Norte, three in North Cotabato, seven in Maguindanao/Shariff Kabunsuan.
Records on the 2000 war show that the amount needed to repair roads and irrigation systems destroyed by war was P556.32 million while P1.323 billion was needed for relief and rehabilitation,.
In 2003, for relief alone, government spent P60 million and P50 million for rehabilitation – based on records of the Department of Social Welfare and Development alone (DSWD).
But more than the visible costs of war – ammunition and other war materiel, the lives lost among combatants and civilians in the battlefields, hospitals and evacuation centers, the limbs lost and other injuries sustained, the invisible costs of war cannot be quantified.
“Madali i-impelmenta yung physical rehabilitation pero yung hindi nakikita na epekto ng gyera, yung trauma on the part of the children, being uprooted from the homes, sa mga nanay, yung polarization nangyayari sa community – Christian, Muslim, Lumad, yung hatred, anger. Ito yung hindi mo ma-quantify at hindi mo pwedeng tugunin lang sa pamamagitan ng pagtayo ng bahay, pagbigay ng seeds. Kailangan mo dito ay isang professional na approach, tulad ng psychosocial intervention, trauma healing, debriefing, sa mga bata at mga traumatized women. Nakita ko rin sa implementasyong ng rehabilitasyon ng gobyerno, ito ay hindi binibigyan ng importansya” (It’s easy to implement physical rehabilitation but the invisible effects of war – trauma on the part of the children, being uprooted from the homes, mothers, the polarization fo communities – Christians, Muslims, Lumad – the hatred, anger. You can’t quantify these and you can’t respond to these by constructing shelter and giving seeds. What you need is professional approach, like psychosocial intervention, trauma healing, debriefing of children and traumatized women. In the implementation of rehabilitation by government, this is not given importance), Fr Roberto Layson, former parish priest of Pikit, said after the war in 2003. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)