Philippines to upgrade air defense capability

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Friday, March 28, 2014


THE Philippine military signed contracts worth P23.7 billion to buy 12 fighter jets from South Korea and four combat utility helicopters from Canada to boost the capability of the Philippine Air Force.

“The signing of the contracts that we have done today provides a happy sigh of relief, especially to the Philippine Air Force,” said Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, who witnessed the contract signing in Camp Aguinaldo on Friday, March 21.

Armed Forces chief General Emmanuel Bautista signed the contracts -- one with the Korean Aerospace Industries (KAI) for the delivery of 12 FA-50 fighters worth P18.9 billion, and the other with Canadian Commercial Corp. for the supply of four Bell 412 combat utility helicopters worth P4.8 billion.

The two contractors are expected to start the delivery of the aircraft next year. The contract with the South Korean contract is the highest ticket item so far signed under the long-delayed modernization program.

Department of National Defense Undersecretary Fernando Manalo, who chaired the Special Bids and Awards Committee that negotiated the deals, said KAI will deliver two of the FA-50s 18 months after the opening of the Letter of Credit. He did not say when the Letter of Credit will be opened.
Manalo said the delivery of the brand-new air assets will be completed in
2017.

Canadian Ambassador to the Philippines Neil Reeder said two of the Bell 412 helicopters will be delivered “midpoint 2015.” The choppers, which can accommodate 14 passengers each, can provide assault and air support.

Reeder said his government is looking forward to other opportunities “with the hope that we can respond to some of the needs of the Philippine government as it continues its defense modernization agenda.”

“With the eventual delivery and acquisition of these new air assets, our Air Force can already forget the lingering naughty joke that it is all air without force,” said Gazmin.

The Philippine Air Force is one of the weakest in Southeast Asia, where some states are embroiled in a territorial dispute with emerging global powerhouse China.

Gazmin said the two projects, done through government-to-government negotiations, was a product of processes that he described as “slow, tedious and full of challenges.”

He said it is heartening to know that these aircraft will soon fly across the country.

“After hundreds, if not thousands, of working hours spent in ironing out the details of the combat utility helicopter and lead-in fighter trainer projects we have finally reached this point,” Gazmin said, referring to the signing of the contracts.

“I am happy and proud to say that the negotiations were done fairly and squarely, following the strict but necessary processes set forth by law,” added Gazmin, who thanked the people involved in the negotiations for a “job well done.”

In a radio interview on Sunday, Senate President Franklin Drilon said the upgrade of the country’s military hardware is needed with or without territorial dispute with China.

“We can never get to the military level of China. Our modernization policy has been there for some 20 years. We have to improve our capability because we have to defend our territory whether or not there are conflicting claims on the West Philippine Sea,” he said.

KAI president and chief executive officer Ha Sung Yong said the Philippine military made a brilliant choice in the FA-50 fighters.

Yong said the FA-50, also known as the Fighting Eagle, will not only serve as a “most powerful” advance jet trainer and lead-in fighter but also as a multipurpose fighter that has a proven performance and affordability.

He said the South Korean government will not forget the Philippine government’s contribution in the Korean War in the 1950s, as he reiterated his government’s “truthful appreciation.”

“Today, we just opened a new era of solid partnership between the two of us. I am sure there will be further opportunities that we can cooperate (on) based on our strategic partnership,” Yong said.

The Philippines earlier acquired sea vessels such as BRP Gregorio del Pilar, a second-hand high endurance cutter from the United States, amid the incursion of Chinese vessels in disputed areas in the West Philippine Sea. (VR/Third Anne Peralta/Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)

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