MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte's plans for the presidential plane are similar to his plans for the presidential yacht: turn them into mobile emergency healthcare facilities for soldiers.
On Monday, August 8, Duterte told soldiers in Camp Lukban in Catbalogan, Samar that he wants the presidential plane converted into an "air ambulance."
"We also requested [Defense] Secretary [Delfin] Lorenzana to make arrangements because I'm giving up the presidential plane, reconvert it into an air ambulance," he said during his 11th visit to a military camp.
He said he doesn't mind doing this since he is comfortable taking commercial flights or small jets for his trips around the country.
"Total, ako komportable na ako sa PAL (Philippine Airlines) at Cebu Pacific...Okay na siguro eroplano niyan. I'll just ride commercial flights. Sometimes I use jet, small ones. Kung may gasoline, I'll just pay 'yung gasoline pati operational cost," he said.
(Anyway, I'm comfortable with PAL and Cebu Pacific...Their airplanes are probably okay. I'll just ride commercial flights. Sometimes I use jets, small ones. If there is gasoline needed, I'll just pay for the expenses, as well as the operational cost.)
Duterte is known to have taken a PAL flight from Manila to Davao City at least once. More often, he uses private jet planes.
He once told reporters during a dinner that he uses a Jet Stream plane and pays for the operational costs and fuel.
The presidential plane Duterte must have been referring to is Kalayaan One, a Fokker F28-3000 jet. Duterte said the plane may be of better use as a mobile hospital for soldiers injured in combat.
He previously said he wanted the same fate for presidential yacht BRP Ang Pangulo. If the boat attracts no buyers, the President said he wanted it to become a hospital ship to be sent to soldiers fighting in conflict areas. – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.