THE Philippine Air Force (PAF) will have more aircraft this year, as it upgrades its capability to respond to disasters.
Lt. Gen. Lauro Catalino Dela Cruz, PAF commanding general, said 21 Huey helicopters will be delivered this year, with seven to 10 expected to arrive in the first half of the year.
Dela Cruz, who graced the 35th anniversary celebration of the PAF Second Air Division yesterday, said they are converting four helicopter gunships into air ambulances.
He also revealed that President Benigno Aquino III approved their request to buy two more C-130 aircraft.
The PAF has three C-130 planes.
“As part of our capability upgrading program, the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) will also buy three medium-lift aircraft. These are lower versions of the C-130s. If this will materialize, we will have eight cargo aircraft,” Dela Cruz said in an interview.
But the process of procuring aircrafts, he said, takes at least two years.
During a program at the Brigadier Gen. Benito N. Ebuen Air Base in Lapu-Lapu City, Dela Cruz commended the Second Air Base Division, headed by Maj. Gen. Romeo Poquiz, for their accomplishments last year.
Poquiz, in a speech, said the PAF was the first agency to deliver relief goods to survivors of super typhoon Yolanda, particularly in Tacloban, as many roads were impassable because of debris.
“It was the air force that responded first and delivered the support,” he said.
The Second Air Division, in an audio-visual presentation, reported its accomplishments last year, the highlights of which include its participation in the rescue and retrieval effort following the sea collision off Talisay City, as well as in the oil spill cleanup; transporting relief goods to earthquake victims in Bohol and to the typhoon victims in Leyte, northern Cebu, Samar and other badly hit areas.
During the program, awards were given to PAF officers for their outstanding performance last year, and to civilians who gave extraordinary support to the air force.
Dela Cruz said the air force continues to help in the rehabilitation effort of typhoon-ravaged areas, particularly in the transport of relief goods.
In his speech, Dela Cruz stressed the need for the air force and all sectors to be prepared for stronger typhoons.
“This year might not be different. It’s much better to be prepared. We have to develop our strengths, as well as our weaknesses,” he said.
He underscored the need to intensify trainings of air force personnel. “We normally maximize the summer period for training,” he said.
Dela Cruz also revealed that the air force will form an “air mobile engineering group”, which will bring bulldozers, payloaders and other heavy equipment via C-130 to isolated, disaster-stricken areas.