Lorenzana: Pandemic shone light on need for more military air assets
MANILA, Philippines—The COVID-19 pandemic has drawn the spotlight on the need for more military air assets, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said on Wednesday (July 7).
“Today, we need airplanes because the pandemic requires transport of personnel and supplies,” Lorenzana said at a pre-State of the Nation Address (SONA) media briefing.
Philippine military air assets flew nonstop to transport personal protective equipment, supplies, and stranded passengers across the country at the height of the pandemic in 2020 as quarantine rules limited civilian aircraft flights.
The Philippine Air Force also made regular back and forth trips to China to pick up billions of pesos worth of PPEs bought by the Philippine government.
The government had to realign funds from several agencies for its COVID-19 response, including the defense department’s meager budget for armed forces modernization. This meant the implementation of some projects had to be pushed back.
Lorenzana said the Philippine government could have made more progress in upgrading military capabilities had the pandemic not stricken.
But he said he hoped that “70 to 80 percent” of Horizon 2, or the second phase of the military modernization program, will be implemented before President Rodrigo Duterte steps down in 2022.
The PAF, he said, was set to buy two brand new C-130 transport aircraft, three C-295 medium-lift planes and four NC-212i light-lift fixed-wing aircraft.
New multi-role fighter jets are also on the PAF’s sights.
“Which proponent would be picked is being threshed out,” Lorenzana said in Filipino “Everything is programmed hopefully we can finish the contracts within this year,” he said.
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