Duterte OKs purchase of 15 Black Hawk helicopters
President Rodrigo Duterte has approved the purchase of 15 Black Hawk helicopters and to decommission all Huey helicopters.
Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said on Thursday the decision was made during the full Cabinet meeting on Wednesday.
"The President has approved the acquisition of 15 Black Hawk helicopters as part of plans to slowly address the growing heli-lift deficiency of our Armed Forces and number two, decommission all Huey helicopters," he said in a "Virtual Presser."
Duterte initially expressed his intention to decommission all the Huey helicopters during his recent visit in Sulu province after similar chopper crashed last month in Bukidnon where seven soldiers were killed.
It was the fourth crash of a Huey chopper since July last year.
"The President wants to end all these tragic deaths. Our servicemen and their families deserve better," Nograles said.
He noted that the Huey helicopters being used by the Philippine Air Force are already old, with the first Huey taking flight 64 years ago.
Due to budgetary constraints, Nograles said the Duterte administration could only afford to buy 15 Black Hawk helicopters.
"We have a heli-lift capability need of 55 helicopters to cover over 7,000 islands with the total land area of 300,000 square kilometers. The Department of National Defense, in fact, says that we actually require a total of 76 helicopters. And while the President initially agreed to acquiring 55 new helicopters that number has been managed and in fact reduced to 15 owing to the challenges that we currently face," the official explained.
A huge chunk of the government's resources has been earmarked to COVID-19 response.
Nograles also said that Duterte's term will end in June next year and the fund for the purchase of the new choppers will be included in the proposed 2022 budget.
"Given these realities and limitations, of course, we have to temper what we can afford only and the realistic number that was discussed was possibly 15," he said.
Since negotiation with the manufacturer will still have to take place, he said the delivery of the Black Hawk helicopters may take place before or after Duterte steps down from office.
He said it would be up to the succeeding administration if it will continue to purchase additional choppers.
"But at the very least, we hope to leave the administration and turn it over to the new administration with at least a lesser deficit as far as heli-lift capability is concerned," the official said. Celerina Monte/DMS