(Photo courtesy of DND)

MANILA – Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana thanked the United States for its support to the ongoing Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Modernization Program.

This as the DND formally received on Thursday four brand-new Cessna 172S "Skyhawk" trainer aircraft worth USD2.2 million (around PHP112 million) which was acquired from the US Foreign Military Financing Program.

The aircraft will be used by the Philippine Navy (PN) Naval Air Wing.

"As we rejoice over this milestone, we also recognized the productive and enduring relationship between the United States and the Philippines, which is the key to the success of this acquisition program," Lorenzana said.

Lorenzana also led the turnover, blessing and activation ceremony at Sangley Point, Cavite with US Chargé d’affaires Heather Variava and AFP chief, Gen. Andres Centino, and PN flag-officer-in-command, Vice Admiral Adeluis Bordado.

"On behalf of the DND and the Filipino people, I thank the United States, represented here by Ms. Heather Variava, for assisting us with this acquisition," he said.

Lorenzana lauded the US for steadfastly holding the other end of the long-enduring military partnership with the Philippines and helping the country modernize its Armed Forces.

"Your ardent support to the AFP Modernization Program is very much appreciated and valued not just by the defense and security sector but the entire Filipino nation as well. On our end, rest assured that we are committed more than ever to the alliance. We acknowledge our shared commitment to help preserve the peace and security in the Indo-Pacific Region," the DND chief added.

Lorenzana also said the newly-acquired Cessna aircraft will greatly enhance the ability of the Navy to train its naval pilots in keeping watch over the country's vast maritime domains.

"And today the PN has welcomed to its growing assets four brand-new Cessna 172s 'Skyhawk' trainer aircraft. These air assets will significantly improve the Navy's ability to prepare naval pilots for the crucial task of monitoring and safeguarding our maritime territories and domain," he added.

As this developed, Lorenzana said the present year has been truly productive for the AFP Modernization Program as they have formally signed the PHP18.9 billion contract for the Indian-made BrahMos medium ramjet supersonic cruise missile system which is programmed for the Navy's Shore-Based Anti-Ship Missile System.

This includes deliveries of two fast-attack interdiction craft-missiles (FAIC-Ms), out of the eight acquired from Israel Shipyards Ltd, which are expected soon.

Four of the FAIC-Ms are armed with NLOS missiles while the other four will be armed with machine guns.

Initially, eight FAIC-Ms were to be acquired for PHP10 billion but successful negotiation with the Israeli firm led to the addition of one more boat without cost to the Philippines.

Other notable modernization accomplishments include the expected completion of the upgrades of the "light armor system and the Gregorio Del Pilar" class patrol vessels, of which there are three, before the end of the year.

"I would like to congratulate the Armed Forces under the Chief-of-Staff Gen. Centino and the Navy under Flag-Officer-in-Command (Vice) Admiral Bordado for their leadership that made possible this huge leap in our capability upgrade. Let us also give credit to the project management team that closely supervised and worked tirelessly for this project and also the American team," Lorenzana said. (PNA)