CEBU City Vice Mayor Joy Augustus Young is interested in three old planes of the Department of Education (Deped), saying City Hall can use these for rescue operations.

He learned the agency, whose head office he recently visited, scheduled a bidding for their three planes in Nueva Ecija, on a cash and “as is, where is” basis. But Young wants to trade the planes for school building projects City Hall will pay for.

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Although the submission and opening of bids were scheduled yesterday, the vice mayor said they can still present a proposal. He will try to convince Mayor Michael Rama to let City Hall join the bidding.

The minimum bid for the three planes is US$100,000 or around P4.6 million at the current exchange rate.

The model was “made famous during the Vietnam War because of its reliability and very short takeoff,” Young said in a text message.

However, Mayor Michael Rama is not keen on buying an airplane because its maintenance is bound to be expensive, especially if it is not a new unit.

The proposal was raised while City Hall’s new administration deals with apparently altered dynamics between the executive and legislative departments.

Rama recently said the council should have informed him before cutting parts of his proposed P221-million supplemental budget, then inserting P24 million to pay for buses given away shortly before the May elections.

Young said he already apologized to the mayor for failing to inform him of the proposed changes.

Rama said he previously proposed for City Hall to buy a helicopter and assign it to the military’s Central Command (Centcom) base in Cebu City, on condition that all of their helicopters will be available for the city in times of emergency.

“That would have been a good set-up if we had pursued it, because Centcom has the capability to maintain aircraft,” Rama said.       

The mayor said he is open to a discussion with Young, but will also bring up the high maintenance costs for private aircraft.

The three airplanes DepEd wants to sell are Helio Aircraft H-391B, Helio Aircraft Model H-295 and Helio Aircraft Model H-250/295, the same models used in Vietnam War.

The three are over 40 years old and some original parts are no longer available in the market, but the aircraft are said to be in good condition.

According to the company’s website, Helio planes are designed for short landing strips and are “quiet enough to operate on airstrips adjacent to residential areas.” It built its earliest model in 1948, which the company demonstrated by taking off from a tennis court.

The models in DepEd’s possession, according to the site, were among the Helio Courier variants the US Federal Aviation Authority certified between 1954 and 1984.

Young said the price is very affordable and City Hall can order repairs on one of the airplanes, using body parts of the other two aircraft.

The vice mayor said they can store the airplane, once fixed, at the South Road Properties (SRP) and can use it for coastal management or in going to the mountain barangays.

He clarified the city won’t have to release money for the payment, but will offer to pay for the construction of school buildings in the city, in exchange.

“We will offer to pay for these aircraft with school building construction for the next three years, instead of paying the money.  We’ll tell them that every year, we will build worth P25 million worth of school buildings, kay mutukod man gyud ta (because we intend to build anyway), so, P75 million in three years,” Young said.

“Dako pa kaayo sa ilang gi-bid nga US$100,000 (That’s so much more than their opening bid).”

One of the prospective bidders is the Department of Interior and Local Government, but Young said he is confident the proposed exchange will be more attractive to DepEd.