President Rodrigo Roa Duterte on Friday, January 22, said he wants a complete decommissioning of all Huey helicopters in the Philippine Air Force’s inventory because of their frequent involvement in fatal crashes.
“Marami pa ba ‘yang Huey na ‘yan? Naiwan? Hindi, palitan ko na sana. Wala ng… Maano na talaga ‘yan, luma na. Maski na sabihin mong — maintenance,” President Duterte said in a speech during a camp visit in Camp Teodulfo Bautista in Jolo, Sulu.
“Bibili ako ng mga helicopters — para sa mga… Sayang ang buhay. At saka puwede pa naman natin remedyohan sa Bisaya. Eh kung may remedyo diyan, if it can be remedied, we will.”
“I am not making any hard promises. But you can rest assured, I will try my best to look for money para palitan ko ‘yung mga luma na,” he added.
The President told soldiers that he wants to procure at least six or seven new helicopters for the Air Force.
It is saddening, he said, to hear soldiers losing their lives while doing their duties. Seven members of the security forces were killed in an air accident involving a Huey chopper in Bukidnon last week.
“Masaktan ka talaga. Kung wala kang koneksyon sa gobyerno, okay lang. But sa kagaya ko, ako ‘yung parang administrador ng bayan tapos ganoon ang nangyari, masakit para sa akin,” he said. “You just don’t know the pain that I suffer every time.”
PAF grounded all of its Huey helicopters following the crash in Bukidnon. The UH-1H and UH-1D models, or Hueys, are Vietnam War-era helicopters that have been refurbished to serve as the PAF’s main workhorses.
It was reported that the Bukidnon incident was the fourth Air Force rotorcraft to go down in six months, three involving Huey helicopters.
Even prior to the President’s pronouncement, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) already has an existing procurement program to modernize PAF’s fleet of helicopters. Recently, it commissioned the first six of 16 Polish-made Sikorsky S-70i Black Hawk helicopters ordered in 2019.
The remaining 10 units are expected to be delivered within the first quarter of 2021, defense officials said.
The brand-new Black Hawk helicopters, manufactured by PZL Mielec, a Lockheed Martin/Sikorsky company in Poland, will provide PAF with sustained day-and-night tactical lift, transport, and search-and-rescue capabilities.
The helicopters are being procured by the Philippine government under a $241.5 million government-to-government contract to meet the Horizon 2 phase of the Revised Armed Forces of the Philippines Modernization Program (RAFPMP). PND