MANILA, Philippines – Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Wednesday, May 13, defended the impending purchase of attack helicopters which had been allotted around P13 billion by the government, saying it’s to fight the communist New Peoples’ Army (NPA).
Left-leaning groups criticized the plan and said the funds are better spent in responding to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Agree ako dyan, I agree that buying these helicopters… we would rather give it to our people. Kaya lang itigil niyo ang inyong armed struggle, ititigil din namin ang ganitong pagbili ng armas,” Lorenzana said Wednesday during the briefing of Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque.
(I agree that buying these helicopters… we would rather give the money to our people. But stop your armed struggle and we will stop buying arms.)
“Gusto niyo mapigilan ang pag angkat ng panglaban sa inyo pero di niyo naman ititigil yung inyong ginagawang armed struggle,” said Lorenzana. (You want to stop us from buying arms to fight you with, but you don’t want to stop your armed struggle.)
The Philippine military has been fighting the guerrillas for more than decades now. The NPA is down to a few thousand armed regulars scattered in key provinces, though their political base remains strong.
Lorenzana said talks on the arms deal started way before, in 2016 or in 2017. But the US State Department approved the sale only last April.
‘We can’t afford’
The Philippines is looking at either either 6 AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters or 6 AH-64E Apache attack helicopters. The main difference are the prices – P22.7 billion for the Viper package and P75.8 billuon for the apache package.
Lorenzana said the country cannot afford either one.
“Hindi natin kaya ‘yun, ang pera lang nating nakalaan para bumili ng attack helicopter ay P13 billion lang. Kung bibili tayo ng attack helicopter na ganyan halaga isa o dalawa lang ang mabibili natin,” said Lorenzana.
(We can’t afford that, our budget to buy attack helicopters is only P13 billion. If we’re gonna buy attack helicopters for that price, we can only buy one or two.)
Lorenzana said they were looking at other countries to buy from.
Lorenzana said he does not think the striking down of the PH-US Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) would affect the planned purchase.
Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel Romualdez said the VFA only covers the terms of our accommodation to American soldiers while they’re in the country, and not the overall relations with the US including buying arms.
“In spite of the VFA about to be terminated on August 9, I think the United States is very much committed to helping us in terms of our modernization program, and they would like to see us get as much equipment as possible,” Romualdez said on Wednesday at the government’s daily Laging Handa briefing. – Rappler.com