Duterte to continue Air Force modernization
CLARK AIR FIELD, Pampanga — President Duterte vowed on Tuesday, to continue the modernization program for the Philippine Air Force (PAF) as the country faces serious threats to its national security.
“I assure you that we will build on our past gains to further strengthen the Philippine Air Force,” Mr. Duterte said at the 70th anniversary of the PAF.
“We will continue the ongoing modernization program by procuring additional attack and combat utility vehicles and unmanned aerial vehicles or UAVs to complement our already existing air assets,” he added.
Eight of the 12 brand new FA-50 fighter jets were on a flight line, facing the commander-in-chief who once dismissed them as merely for “ceremonial” purposes.
But as the military battled the Islamic State (IS)- inspired Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups to liberate Marawi City, Mr. Duterte discovered the capabilities of the FA-50s.
On Tuesday, top officials of the Korean Aerospace Industry presented the certificate of complete delivery of all 12 FA-50s to Mr. Duterte and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana. Four of the jets were deployed in Marawi.
The jets were worth a total of P18.9 billion, and were among the big ticket military items purchased by the previous Aquino administration as part of its AFP modernization program.
President Duterte did not yet mention how much money he wanted earmarked for his administration’s modernization program but he recognized the need to continue to upgrade the military’s capability as the country “faces the current challenges of terrorism and external security.”
“The PAF plays a crucial role in preserving our national integrity and in the face of challenges from within and from without, from the outside of our borders. The intensified area reconnaissance mission and the maritime patrols of the West Philippine Sea and the Benham Rise are testament to our dedication to protect our water from external threats,” President Duterte said.
The President has issued an executive order declaring that Benham Rise should be called Philippine Rise.
Mr. Duterte arrived at the Clark Air Field two hours late from the original schedule. The heavy downpour and his tardiness forced Mr. Duterte to read a two-page prepared speech. He said he was used to “talking a lot” and extemporaneously but he could not bear seeing his troops getting drenched by the rain.
Vice President Leni Robredo arrived at 2 pm and trooped the line.
Mr. Duterte and Robredo shook hands when he arrived. As he acknowledged Robredo in his speech, the President said he wanted to look at her “for the third time.” SFM
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