17 February 2012

The Genuine AFP Modernization Program

Augusta Falcon Combat Utility Helicopters
True to his word, President Benigno Aquino III has started to acquire modern equipment and vehicles for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) modernization program.

"Mulat po tayong kailangan pang palakasin ang inyong hanay kaya naman makakaasa kayo sa tuloy tuloy na modernisasyon ng inyong hanay upang mapabuti pa ang inyong serbisyo publiko," Aquino said in his speech during the Philippine Air Force (PAF) ceremonies last January 2012.

He, however, did not specify the equipment or facilities to be procured for PAF but acknowledged that the country only has one C-130 which was used to transport relief goods to the areas affected by tropical storm "Sendong" (Washi) late last year.

"Mantakin po ninyo: Sa ngayon, isa lang po ang ating C-130 na may kakayahang maghatid ng tulong sa mga sinalanta ng bagyo, at maipaabot ang mga kagamitan ng mga sundalo para sa kanilang mga operasyon sa kanayunan," he said.

That commitment to the Filipino soldier's technological requirement bore fruit this month when the crew of a giant cargo plane unloaded four Augusta Falcon Combat Utility Helicopters for the PHL Air Force after it arrived at Clark Air Base in Pampanga (pictured above). The choppers have night vision capability and can accommodate 10 passengers.

It can be recalled that the country had earlier acquired its first Hamilton-class vessel from the US Coast Guard to upgrade the military’s external defense capabilities. The ship, which was renamed BRP Gregorio del Pilar, was deployed to the West Philippine Sea to secure oil exploration projects in the area.

The Gregorio del Pilar is classified as a cutter, a high-speed vessel that could cut through waves. The ship is now the Navy’s largest vessel. It was acquired under the US Foreign Military Sales program using proceeds from the Malampaya natural gas project that is located at the West Philippine Sea off Palawan.

The military also sent Navy officers to the U.S. to determine the requirements for the acquisition of a second Hamilton-class patrol ship.

Now, when was the last time anybody heard a Philippine President took the modernization of the AFP this seriously? The only thing closest to AFP modernization during the time of former Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was the procurement of two second-hand Robinson R44 Raven 1 helicopters that was allegedly made to appear as brand new and used by the Arroyos during the campaign period.