CLARK AIR BASE, Pampanga: President Benigno Aquino 3rd on Wednesday once again bragged about improved governance under his “daang matuwid (straight path)” mantra as the reason why the nation’s air force has more force than air, but was silent about controversies hounding the government’s aircraft acquisition contracts.
Speaking at the 68th anniversary of the founding of the Philippine Air Force (PAF), Aquino said the good governance of his administration has led to better public funding and services to the nation.
He cited his administration’s achievements in modernizing the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
In just five years, Aquino said, 55 projects were completed for the military, surpassing the 45 finished projects of the past three administrations.
“My administration’s straight path broke the cycle of hopelessness and neglect of your welfare. Because of good governance, we managed to improve the capabilities and materiel needed by our soldiers,” the President said in Filipino.
Aquino reiterated his promise to acquire modern aircraft and weaponry before his term ends in 2016.
The President enumerated the types of aircraft that are on the government’s shopping list.
But he failed to mention the controversial UH-1D helicopters from the US, which had been the subject of an expose by The Manila Times.
The deal was said to have been rigged to favor Rice Aircraft Services Inc. and its joint venture partner, Eagle Copters Ltd of Canada, with the help of local contacts and officials at the Department of Defense (DND).
The Manila Times expose prompted the Senate and the House of Representatives to call for a congressional investigation of the modernization program. The Defense department also scrapped the P1.2-billion UH-1 helicopter project and ordered the blacklisting of the supplier.
According to Aquino, some of the air assets soon to be added to the PAF inventory include two more units of C-295 medium lift transport and eight Bell 412 combat utility helicopters, and six close air support aircraft.
Two of the 12 FA-50 Golden Eagle light attack aircraft that were acquired from South Korea are scheduled for delivery in December.
In order for the modernization efforts to continue, Aquino urged soldiers to continue upholding his platform of governance to ensure the modernization of the AFP.
The President said his government is pushing for PAF Flight Plan 2028 to transform the air force, which he says was left “grounded” because of corruption and poor governance in the past.
This program, however, will span three Presidents. Aquino only has 364 remaining days in office.
“That’s why we need to side with the straight path. If we divert from this path, I’m sure the direction toward positive change, which we already started, would face a stumbling block,” the President said.