Monday, 24 January 2011 14:54
It’s what the people should have said when they saw many fighter and trainer aircraft maneuver above the Manila skyline last December 9th. PAF Spokesman Lt. Col. Miguel Ernesto Okol expressed that hope upon learning that some Manila residents, apparently alarmed by the spectacle, nervously called up the aviation authorities to inquire if their city was about to be
invaded that day!
Those planes, we recall, were practicing their ceremonial flyby as part of the PAF’s participation in the 75th anniversary celebration of the AFP last December 21st. Col. Okol also remarked that the people should have shown some appreciation for the PAF, because the fact that the “woefully underequipped and underfunded Air Force possesses [such] aircraft [is by itself]
an accomplishment already.” (DJ Yap, “Air Force rehearses flyby for AFP anniv,” Philippine Daily Inquirer, 12/09/2010)
However, beyond his credible basis for hoping what the people should have said in regard to the PAF that day are certain circumstances that inspire a renewed, stronger faith and pride in the Air Force:
First, President P-Noy Aquino’s pledge last November 21st during the awarding ceremonies of the Philippine Air Force Aviation Cadet and Officer Candidate Alumni Association (PAF-Aces). He declared then that “aside from . . . new air assets and surveillance equipment . . . the PAF would also be provided soon with more modern engines and assets such as combat
utility helicopter and basic trainer aircraft.” (“Aquino cites role of Air Force to effect reforms,” PNA, Positive News Media Philippines, 11/22/2010).
Second, the decision of the PAF leadership “to buy a refurbished C-130 cargo airplane [a] project . . . first approved by the Air Force Weapons and Systems Board.” (“Air Force to buy 2nd hand C-130 plane for $34 million,” abs-cbnNEWS.com, 12/23/2010) The project subsequently passed the evaluation of the AFP Weapons Board, which then favorably endorsed it to the
Secretary of National Defense (SND) through the AFP Chief of Staff (COS).
Third, the turnover to the Defense Department last January 10th of “5 refurbished Huey helicopters from the United States government as part of the 20 aircraft pledged by former US President George Bush to former President [Gloria] Arroyo.” (“Air Force to get 5 refurbished Hueys,” abs-cbnNews.com, 01/06/2011) More than three years ago, the first batch of 10 such
helicopters was delivered, so “five more Hueys are still expected from the [US government].”
Fourth, the PAF expects to also receive within this quarter or next the last batch of 10 (from a total of 18) SF 260 Marchetti trainer planes it had purchased the previous year. It will be recalled that two batches of four such trainer planes were received by the Air Force within the single month of November last year. The entire package cost PhP622.59 Million.
Fifth, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin’s order to defer all the “big-ticket purchases of the military pending a systematic and methodical review consistent with the principles under the Defense System of Management.” (Rene Acosta, “DND scuttles P3.2-B plan to buy Polish helicopters,” Business Mirror, December 8, 2010)
Secretary Gazmin’s decision, we recall, was based on the Board of Inquiry’s (BOI) mostly negative finding about the bidding re the PAF’s purchase of seven new attack helicopters. Thus, it could be reasonably expected that after the review, the PAF’s procurement system would be more efficient and effective. It is a cinch, therefore, that the PAF will acquire this year its much needed combat helicopters, which could also be used for rescue missions.
The foregoing circumstances also indicate that 2011 promises to be a more fruitful year for the Air Force. Its process of modernization is now on the take off stage as it gradually leaves behind its “woefully underequipped and underfunded” status. As its development soars with the expressed, decisive support of the young Aquino Government, our people’s renewed faith
and admiration for the PAF will naturally be enhanced.
Thus, the fulfillment of Col. Okol’s hope is just beyond the horizon. Soon, at the sight of the PAF’s new planes and helicopters hovering above the skyline, every Filipino would be able to say with confidence: “I’m proud. That’s our Air Force!”
By Ric Adjawie
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