DND chief says PH budget for US attack helicopters 'too tight'

By Priam Nepomuceno

May 13, 2020, 4:54 pm

<p>Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana. <em>(File photo)</em></p>

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana. (File photo)

MANILA – Acknowledging the United States' offer to sell two top-of-the-line attack helicopters to the Philippine Air Force (PAF), Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Wednesday said the country could not afford to acquire such equipment with the budget allocated for the project.

Lorenzana made this remark in response to the April 30 US State Department "determination", approving a possible Foreign Military Sale to the Philippines of six AH-1Z "Viper" attack helicopters and related equipment for USD450 million (around PHP22 billion).

The US State Department also manifested the possible sale of six AH-64E Apache attack helicopters and associated equipment for USD1 billion (around PHP50 billion).

"I think that's (USD)1.5 billion to (USD)2 billion (around PHP75 to PHP100 billion) for six (Apache) attack helicopters. Ngayon, ang pera lang nakalaan para bumili ng attack helicopter ay PHP13 billion (around USD258 million) lang. Kung bibili tayo ng attack helicopter ng ganyang halaga ay baka isa o dalawa lang mabibili natin (Now, our allotted funds for the acquisition of attack helicopters is only PHP13 billion. Considering that amount, we can just buy one or two)," Lorenzana said in a Palace briefing.

He said the Philippines is looking for other countries or suppliers capable of delivering at least six attack helicopters based on the funds provided by the government.

Lorenzana said it would be uneconomical for the Philippines to invest in a support system if the country can only acquire two attack helicopters for PHP13 billion.

He earlier said the PAF is more interested in acquiring the Turkish Aerospace Industries T-129 helicopters for its attack helicopter program.

The Air Force is looking to acquire dedicated but affordable attack helicopters to beef up its fleet of lightly-armed helicopters like the MG-520 and AW-109E which is being used for counter-terror and ground support missions.

Responding to criticisms coming from leftists regarding the attack helicopter acquisition project, Lorenzana said he is amenable to giving the money to the people provided that the communist rebels stop their armed struggle.

"Sabi bakit bibili tayo, bakit hindi natin ibigay na lang sa tao, agree ako dyan (They said 'Why should we buy? Why not just give it to the people?' I agree with that). I would rather give it to our people, kaya lang ang sabi ko itigil din nyo ang (but I also say, stop your) armed struggle. Ititigil din namin ang pagbili ng ganitong armas kasi 50 years na kayong nanggugulo dyan. Gusto ninyo mapigilan ang pag-angkat ng mga panlaban sa inyo pero hindi naman ninyo ititigil yung inyong ginagawang (We will not stop acquiring this kind of arms because you have been sowing chaos for 50 years. You want to stop the importation of equipment to be used against you but you don't want to stop your) armed struggle," he added. (PNA)