LIPA CITY, Batangas: President Benigno Aquino 3rd has delivered on his promise to strengthen the Philippine Air Force (PAF).
Aquino said during turnover rites here on Friday that the government will get new FA-50 fighter jets from South Korea starting next year.
He also announced that the government will buy eight combat utility helicopters, six close air support aircraft and two long-range patrol aircraft.
The PAF will also try to acquire radar systems and full motion flight simulator to improve the skills of Filipino pilots, the President said.
He expressed hope that with the support being given by his administration to the military, government troops will also give their utmost best to do their job for the country and the people.
“Hangad po nating muling malinang ang kapasidad ng ating mga pilotong magpalipad nito para sa ating mga operasyong pangmilitar [We hope to raise the capacity of our pilots for military operations],” Aquino said.
“Kompiyansa naman po tayong higit pang titibay at lalakas ang hanay ng ating mga kawal lalo pa’t may gobyerno na kayong tunay na kumakalinga sa inyo [We are confident that our soldiers’ ranks will be further strengthened knowing that they have a government that truly cares for them],” he added
Aquino made these statements amid an ongoing territorial dispute with China over parts of the South China Sea.
The Philippines has brought the matter to international arbitration but China rejected the move.
The President did not mention China during his speech but he thanked the Air Force for “defending” the country’s territory.
“Tiwala ako sa patuloy na pakikibalikat ng Hukbong Himpapawid, sa walang pagod ninyong pagbabantay sa ating teritoryo, sa buong-giting ninyong pagprotekta sa ating kababayan mula sa masasamang elemento at anumang delubyo, at sa pakikihakbang ninyo upang gawing permanente ang tinatamasa nating malawakang transpormasyon sa lipunan [I trust that the Air Force will continue to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the government, to tirelessly guard the country’s territory, to valiantly protect our countrymen from bad elements and deluges and to step with us in making permanent the widespread transformation of our society],” he said.
In his speech, Aquino noted the lack of equipment in the PAF during the start of his term.
He said the country only used to have a single C-130 aircraft and its F-5 fighter jets had been retired nine years ago.
But under the leadership of Lt. Gen. Lauro Catalino dela Cruz, the outgoing PAF commander general, the country now has C-130 cargo planes, eight Sokol combat utility helicopters and 18 basic trainer aircraft.
“Kahanga-hanga ang ipinamalas niyang katangian sa serbisyo sa kabila ng di-mabilang na parangal na kanyang natanggap. Naging huwaran siya ng pagpapakumbaba. Iginagalang ang kanyang liderato dahil sa kanyang husay at kakayahan, gayundin sa pagmamalasakit sa kanyang nasasakupan [His service was admirable. Despite his achievements, he remained humble. His leadership is being respected because of his skills and concern for his people],” Aquino said of dela Cruz.
“Saludo tayo sa makabuluhang pagbabago na isinakatuparan ni Lieutenant General dela Cruz para sa ating Air Force [We salute the meaningful changes in the Air Force during dela Cruz’s leadership],” he added
New PAF chief
Dela Cruz will be replaced by Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Delgado, who was once a member of the Presidential Security Group during the term of the President’s late mother, Corazon Aquino.
Also in his speech, the President lauded the skills of Delgado, who is capable of piloting a combination of fixed and rotary wing aircraft.
He also commended the incoming PAF chief for continuing his government service after surviving two plane crashes.
Aquino said he is certain that Delgado will be able to do the job well.