President Rodrigo Duterte bared Friday that he is bent on procuring at least seven new helicopters for the Philippine Air Force (PAF).

‘Di na magtitiis sa luma! Duterte wants 7 new helicopters for AFP after Huey crash

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President Rodrigo Duterte bared Friday that he is bent on procuring at least seven new helicopters for the Philippine Air Force (PAF).

Duterte’s plan came after a UH-1H “Huey” combat utility aircraft helicopter crashed in Impasug-ong, Bukidnon on January 16, killing five military personnel and two militiamen.

In a speech delivered in Jolo, Sulu, he expressed his intent to decommission all the PAF’s Huey helicopters to protect soldiers against possible plane crashes.

“Marami pa ba ‘yang Huey na ‘yan? Naiwan? Hindi, palitan ko na sana. Maano na talaga ‘yan, luma na (How many Huey helicopters do we still have? I want those replaced. They are already outdated),” Duterte said.

He said he had already entered into a deal for the procurement of new helicopters. He, however, did not elaborate on the agreement.

“Magpabili siguro ako ng mga anim, pito, okay na ‘yung pampalit sa ano, iyong Huey cargo. Mayroon kasi doon deal (I will buy six or seven helicopters to replace the Huey cargo helicopters. I already had a deal),” Duterte said.

The PAF has already grounded all of its Huey helicopters following the crash in Bukidnon.

The UH-1H and UH-1D models, or “Hueys”, are Vietnam War-era helicopters that have been refurbished to serve as the PAF’s main workhorses.

The Huey helicopter that crashed in Bukidnon went on a supply mission to a patrol base in the province but encountered engine trouble after taking off from Malaybalay City.

The latest plane crash was the fourth incident reported in six months, three involving Huey helicopters.

Killed in the crash were Lt. Col. Arnie Arroyo, pilot; 2nd Lt. Mark Anthony Caabay, co-pilot; Sgt. Mervin Bersabe; Airman 1st Class Stephen Agarrado; Sgt. Julius Salvado; Jerry Ayocdo; and Jhamel Sugalang.

‘Painful’

Duterte said he wants to procure new helicopters for soldiers because it is “painful” to see them die in the line of duty.

“These are all things screwing my mind kasi ‘yung recent crash, masaktan ka talaga (because the recent crash is too painful for me),” he said.

The President promised to find funds for the purchase of new aircraft.

“I am not making any hard promises. But you can rest assured, I will try my best to look for money para palitan ko ‘yung mga luma na (so I can replace the old helicopters),” he said.

The PAF has earlier commissioned the first six of 16 Polish-made Sikorsky S-70i Black Hawk helicopters it ordered in 2019 as part of its program to modernize its fleet of helicopters.

The remaining 10 units are expected to arrive in the country within the first quarter of 2021.

The brand-new Black Hawk helicopters, manufactured by PZL Mielec, a Lockheed Martin/Sikorsky company in Poland, will provide the PAF with sustained day-and-night tactical lift, transport, and search-and-rescue capabilities.

The Philippine government purchased the helicopters under the USD241.5-million government-to-government contract with Poland to meet the Horizon 2 phase of the Revised Armed Forces of the Philippines Modernization Program. (PNA)

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May parusa ‘pag umayaw! AFP requires soldiers to be vaccinated vs COVID-19

MANILA – The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Thursday said coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) inoculation is mandatory for all of its personnel but they have the option to choose among vaccine brands other than Sinovac at their own expense.

“Thus, to get inoculated or not is not an option for the members of the AFP, it is a duty. At the most, the exercise of an option will be the option to as to what brand of vaccine they will be availing of, but the cost of which will not be paid by the AFP,” AFP spokesperson, Marine Maj. Gen. Edgard Arevalo said in an online press briefing.

Malacañang earlier announced that the first batch of Sinovac Biotech vaccines composed of 600,000 doses donated by China is set to arrive on Sunday (Feb. 28), with 100,000 doses of which will be given to the Department of National Defense, the AFP’s mother agency.

Aside from military personnel, Arevalo added that their chief-of-staff Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana has said that their dependents must be vaccinated.

Meanwhile, those opting for other vaccine brands who decided to forego their inoculation can do so but once they are called to duty to serve as front-liners, they will have no choice but to follow.

“They must perform their duties and task but they will have to resort to the traditional health protocol, mag-mask, mag-shield, maghugas ng kamay at mag-maintain ng social distance pansamantala habang hindi pa sila natuturukan ng vaccine na pinipili nila (like the wearing of mask, face shields, regularly washing their hands, and maintaining social distance while they are yet to be vaccinated with the brand of their choice),” Arevalo said.

Meanwhile, said AFP personnel assigned and performing duties that will expose them to Covid-19 patients are required to have themselves vaccinated with the available vaccines.

He added that the AFP will play three major roles in the rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine — security, medical and logistics support operations. (PNA)

Payag ba sa barter? Bello waiting for UK’s response to PH offer to deploy more healthcare workers

MANILA – The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) is waiting for the response of the United Kingdom (UK) on its proposed provision of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) vaccine amid UK’s request for an exemption from the deployment cap of Filipino healthcare workers (HCWs).

In a telephone interview on Thursday, DOLE Secretary Silvestre Bello III said they expect the UK government to respond on the issue within 10 days.

“I told them for me to be able to recommend it to the IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases), I have to be assured of the safety of our workers. The only way we can be assured about the safety of our OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) is (through) the vaccine,” he said.

Bello said the UK may want to send the coronavirus vaccines so the country can immunize the nurses before they are deployed.

“For us to be able to send our medical workers, we want to ensure that they are safe and their health is secured. We don’t have the vaccine, if they want, they can send us (vaccine),” he added.

Bello said he did not provide specific quantities of the vaccines.

“Why not include all OFWs and not just HCWs. In case they are ready to give us the vaccines, I will give them the number of OFWs that will be vaccinated. I just want to be sure that those who will be deployed have received the vaccine,” he added.

The Philippine government is asking the UK and Germany to provide vaccines against Covid-19 for OFWs as part of the agreement in relation to the deployment of health service workers, particularly nurses.

The country has two bilateral agreements with the UK in 2002 and 2003.

The UK and Germany are seeking to be exempted from the 5,000 cap on the deployment of nurses being implemented by the government to ensure there is an adequate number of nurses in the country in case the need arises.

Meanwhile, Bello said he understands the reaction of the people on the issue.

“They thought I would barter our nurses with the vaccine. I just hope that before they accuse me, they should have asked me first and look at what really happened. They just criticized and what they are saying is not true,” he added. (PNA)

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