Bohol shows need for choppers, not fighter jets

MANILA, Philippines — Government's delayed response in various areas in Bohol after a 7.2-magnitude earthquake shook the province shows the need to prioritize the procurement of helicopters over fighter jets, a lawmaker said on Wednesday, October 23. 

"I have always said this: instead of fighter jets, we should complete our requirement for helicopters," Muntinlupa Rep Rodolfo Biazon, a former military chief of staff, said on Wednesday, October 23. "We need more helicopters to address the question of internal security and disaster response. We cannot use fighter jets [for these purposes]."

It's been a week since the earthquake, and Biazon noted the complaints of residents who are still waiting for government assistance. "Whether this claim is true or not, this is an issue being raised. If we have 7 helicopters there, how come these issues are raised," Biazon said. 

The government is finalizing a government-to-government deal with South Korea to purchase 12 fighter jets at the cost of P18.9 billion. (READ: DND wants delivery of 4 fighter jets ASAP)

"I'm not saying the Department of National Defense should not buy fighter jets. I'm saying we should prioritize the helicopters," he added. (READ: Congress questions DND plans to buy fighter jets)

MADE IN SOUTH KOREA. T-50 is South Korea's first indigenous supersonic aircraft and one of the world's few supersonic trainers.

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Biazon was in Camp Aguinaldo, the military headquarters, to lead the House panel comprising the congressional oversight committee on the implementation of Republic Act 10121, the 2010 law that created the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC). He proposed to realign the pork barrel fund for 2014 to fund the economic recovery of Bohol and other areas hit by natural and man-made calamities. 

Biazon said it is also more important to procure C-130 cargo planes over fighter jets. "I am looking at increasing the number of the C-130 [cargo planes] and transport ships that can move troops and equipment for economic activities," Biazon added.

Defense Undersecretary Eduardo Batac assured Biazon that the purchase of more helicopters is underway. "There were some hitches in the procurement process but we are trying to correct this so that we can acquire these helicopters as soon as possible," Batac said in the same hearing.

The last bidding for 21 Hueys failed. The defense department is rushing to complete a negotiated  bid because the allocation expires in December. (READ: Failed bidding in Air Force's 21 refurbished Hueys) — Rappler.com