By Manny Mogato, News5 editor-at-large
(July 12, 2020)— The United States is set to deliver this month one of two second-hand C130 Hercules aircraft to the Philippine Air Force under a foreign military financing program, a defense department spokesman said on Sunday.
Arsenio Andolong said the Philippines needs the aircraft for its logistical requirements to bring medical supplies, including test kits and PPEs, as the military redirected large efforts to respond to a pandemic.
The Philippines has more than 50,000 coronavirus infections and the highest active cases in Southeast Asia. The death toll has risen to more than 1,300, second-highest in the region next to Indonesia.
“At this point in time, we really need more transport aircraft for HADR (humanitarian assistance and disaster relief) like transport of PPEs (personal protective equipment). We need those C-130s from US,” said Andolong.
“Although this (procurement) was planned long ago, (Defense) Secretary (Delfin) Lorenzana mentioned in one of our recent meetings, planning our response against COVID-19, that we should have prioritized the procurement of transport aircraft which we need during this pandemic.”
The Philippines has only five C130 planes, all refurbished aircraft from the United States and acquired throughy military assistance program. Two are in flying conditions. The rest were under maintenance.
One of the planes was used to transport PPEs bought from China and the other to deliver supplies to the provinces.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has stopped ferrying stranded residents from Manila to conserve the planes flying hours and delay maintenance.
Andolong said the two aircraft cost is about 2.5 billion pesos but the Philippine government is only shelling out 1.6 billion pesos.
About 900 million pesos, a portion if the acquisition cost will be shouldered by the US under the Foreign Military Financing program.
Andolong said he was not sure when the negotiations for the aircraft
acquisition started but it was fast tracked by the pandemic.
Lorenzana had a discussion with the modernization program and bilateral relations with US defense chief Mark Esper last month
One of the aircraft, is due to arrive the country this month while the second is due for delivery before the end of the year.
The previous administration of President Benigno Aquino III also procured two C-130s from US for $55 million (P2.75 billion), $20 million (P1 billion) of which was shouldered by US through its FMF program.
One of the aircraft was delivered in April 2016 and the other was delivered six months later.
President Rodrigo Duterte, who declared in 2017 that he would not accept second-hand equipment from US, knew about the procurement of the two C-130s, Andolong said.
“There are no acqusition that do not pass Malacanang, all (procurement under the AFP) modernization passes through him,” Andolong said.
The defense and military establishments are aware of the president’s pronouncement that he no longer wants second-hand equipment from US, Andolong said: “I think he is not inflexible. He listens when you justify an acquisition.”
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