NEW COMBAT HELICOPTERS. President Rodrigo Duterte inspects the newly-delivered air assets displayed at the Haribon Hangar of the Clark Air Base in Pampanga accompanied by Senator Christopher "Bong" Go (left) and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana (right) on Friday (Feb. 12, 2021). In a speech, Duterte was confident that the delivery of new combat helicopters would inspire the military more to fulfill their duty to serve and protect the country. (Screengrab from RTVM)

MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday expressed confidence that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Modernization Program is “already paying off,” considering the significant gains achieved by the military to maintain peace and order in the country.

In a speech delivered before his troops at the Clark Air Base in Pampanga, Duterte said he had approved the proposed acquisition of more combat utility helicopters for the AFP to allow soldiers to fulfill their role in protecting the entire nation.

“Recently, I have approved the proposal to acquire more combat utility [helicopters for] the AFP. With our recent gains against various terror groups, I am confident that our efforts under the AFP Modernization Program are already paying off,” Duterte said.

During his visit to Pampanga, Duterte also led the inspection of the Philippine Air Force’s (PAF) newly-delivered air assets displayed at the Haribon Hangar.

The air assets include one unit of C-130H, six units of S70i Blackhawk Utility Helicopters, six units of A-29B Super Tucanos, six units of Hermes 900 Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, and four units of Hermes 450 Unmanned Aerial.

The new helicopters were delivered in the country after Duterte ordered the decommissioning of all the PAF’s UH-1H “Huey” combat utility aircraft helicopters following the Jan. 16 crash in Bukidnon.

Duterte reiterated that Huey helicopters need to be replaced because these have already “come to age for retirement”.

He also congratulated the Department of National Defense and the AFP for the successful purchase of additional government air assets “that will play an indispensable role in safeguarding our nation”.

“I thank the dedicated men and women of our armed forces for their unwavering commitment and selfless service to the Filipino people and the entire nation, again, in gratitude,” Duterte said.

Duterte also hoped that the military would be more inspired to protect Filipinos against any threat, including terrorism.

“Together, let us remain partners in protecting the life and liberty of all Filipinos and sovereignty of all nations,” he said.

Before delivering his speech, Duterte also witnessed the conferment of the Order of Lapu-Lapu with the Rank of Kamagi to select awardees from the PAF, Philippine Army, and Philippine Navy.

The Kamagi Medal is awarded to those who actively participated in and contributed significantly to an activity under a campaign or advocacy of the President. (PNA)