“As we celebrate your achievements, let us also take this occasion to remember [and] honor our uniformed personnel who died in the helicopter crash in Bukidnon. I express my deepest condolences to the families they have left behind,” President Rodrigo Duterte said during the inspection of recently delivered air assets for Philippine Air Force (PAF) and talk to troops at Clark Air Base on February 12.
“Nag-usap kasi kami — but the day after, I was talking to the DND secretary. Sabi ko, “Del, palitan mo na ‘yang… Is there a way where we can replace itong — the ageing and the old Huey?” he added.
He said that “we know deep in our hearts that everytime that, you know, old helicopter flies, medyo may kaba tayo that it can falter on its own with nobody’s intervention.”
He also noted that even the Hueys undergo repairs, age is still really an issue. “Old, metal fatigue and the constant reboring in repair, it would take its toll on the helicopter itself,” he said.
“Sabi ko kay General Lorenzana na, “Is there a way where we can replace them?” Sabi niya, we have a pending still order of 32? Is it 32?” the President added.
“Well, I can buy more or less madagdagan ko ng lima ‘yan o anim before I go. Pero I cannot give you the entire 32. It will be spread along — in a number of years. But maghanap ako na madagdagan ko ng mga maski lima and to phase out Huey. Eh kaganda-ganda ng Black Hawk eh,” he said.
“Whenever I read my briefer, every night, ang una kong tinitingnan ‘yung mga sundalo kong nasawi and, of course, the wounded. And it grieves me deeply to realize that we can improve on this in terms of fighting, capability and the airworthiness of ‘yung… Sabi ko na kailangan talaga mapalitan na ‘to. I mean, it has come to age for retirement. Hindi na talaga puwede,” Duterte said.
Among the air assets President Duterte inspected are the S70i Black Hawk Combat Utility Helicopters (CUHs) delivered fourth quarter last year. Polskie Zakłady Lotnicze (PZL) Mielec, a Lockheed Martin company, delivered the first six of 16 ordered S70i Black Hawks.
On February 4 this year, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said that President Duterte has approved the acquisition of 15 Black Hawk helicopters.