Thursday, 5 July 2007

P5b for night-vision choppers

By Joyce Pangco Pañares
Original report at the Manila Standard

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has ordered the Armed Forces to begin the bidding process for new night vision-capable helicopters with the recent release of a P5- billion budget for the defense modernization program.

Speaking at the 60th anniversary of the Philippine Air Force at the Villamor Air Base in Pasay City, Mrs. Arroyo said the capability and hardware upgrade of the Armed Forces and the landmark Human Security Act which will take effect next week will mean the end to the insurgency and terrorist problems.

“In the next three years we shall deal a strategic defeat to the insurgency; modernize the military in its twin roles of defense and development; push terrorism back and build peace in Mindanao; and expand our alliances for regional and global security,” the President said.

“The HSA which shall be effective July 15 shall be the basis for a more effective anti-terrorism measures that will not only crush the terrorist movement in the country but also keep it away from our shores.”

The President said the government now has the money to buy brand-new military hardware for the Armed Forces, starting with the P5-billion fund for first-hand helicopters to replace decades-old UH-IH [Hueys] which have been dubbed as “flying coffins.”

“I want to see a bidding for first- hand helicopters,” she said. “I hope that our young men and women in the Air Force will feel safer and braver when they fly these brand- new helicopters.”

The Air Force earlier announced that in six years, it would be retiring the Hueys, crash-prone choppers that were mostly donated by the United States government and used extensively during the Vietnam War.

But the Air Force will retain a few attack choppers such as the MG-520s out of the 41 units currently being used by the military in internal security operations and in relief operations.

The President said with resources now available for defense modernization, the Philippines will no longer be considered as having one of the most poorly equipped Armed Forces, with no available fighter jets and with Navy vessels dating back to World War II.

Mrs. Arroyo said apart from capability upgrade, soldiers can also expect a higher salary from the administration’s increased revenue collection, with a additional hazard pay of up to P1,000 per month.

“We will not only improve the equipment, we will also improve the benefits of the men and women who put their lives on the line for the security of the Filipino people,” she said.

Other benefits are on-base and off-base housing, scholarship for soldiers’ children and livelihood projects.

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