Lorenzana sees 2 new C-130s for PH military before end of 2021
MANILA, Philippines—The Philippines intends to buy two brand new Lockheed Martin C-130J military transport planes before the end of 2021, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said on Thursday (Feb. 18).
President Rodrigo Duterte had earlier approved the purchase of five of the planes but it was pared down to only two because government funds had been diverted to pandemic response.
Philippine Air Force formally receives the 1st of 2 refurbished C-130 aircraft from the US. pic.twitter.com/gTIPNQGkF3
— Frances Mangosing (@FMangosingINQ) February 18, 2021FEATURED STORIES
“He (Duterte) said, ‘How many do you want to buy’? I said five. He said, ‘Approved.’ I was very happy but the pandemic ate all our funds,” Lorenzana said, recounting his conversation with the President. “And we are now back to these two,” he said at the turnover ceremony of a refurbished C-130 plane from the United States at the Villamor Air Base on Thursday.
“I hope I can sign the contract before the year ends,” he added.
Lorenzana also said he hoped to sign a deal for more Black Hawk helicopters, but he did not elaborate.
The COVID-19 pandemic, the defense secretary said, highlighted “the inadequacy of air transport.” At the height of the pandemic in 2020, only PAF planes were flying because civilian planes were not allowed to fly under COVID-19 quarantine rules.
PAF missions then involved transporting personal protective equipment, stranded passengers, medical supplies and virus testing kits across the country.
In 2020, the PAF told Congress that five new units of C-130J, one of the world’s most advanced tactical airlift aircraft, would be enough to effectively serve its mandate. The 5 planes cost P37 billion.
On Thursday, the PAF formally received the first of two refurbished C-130H planes from the US, which were acquired through US military financing. Both planes cost P2.5 billion but the Philippines only paid P1.6 billion while the US shouldered the rest of the amount or P900 million.
Lorenzana welcomed the handover, and said it was a “timely augmentation” of the C-130 fleet. It would help in heavy-lift transport, territorial defense, humanitarian relief operations, and COVID-19 missions.
He thanked the United States government, a long-time ally, which made the acquisition possible through the security cooperation assistance program.
“This gesture of generosity and goodwill cements the time-tested alliance and deep friendship of the two countries. On behalf of the Filipino people, thank you for your constant assistance and support to our country’s endeavor to modernize our armed forces,” Lorenzana said.
The US has been supporting the Philippines’ military upgrade for years, but relationships had been on unsteady ground since President Rodrigo Duterte took power in 2016 and took a pivot to China, a superpower rival of the United States in the Pacific.
Recently, Duterte asked Washington for larger military assistance to keep the Visiting Forces Agreement, which he had unilaterally cancelled in 2020 after the US revoked the visa of one of his closest allies.
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