MANILA, Philippines – After months of paperwork and the risk of a contract cancellation, the new twin-engine Bell helicopter of the Philippine National Police (PNP) finally flew on Monday, April 16.
Onboard was outgoing PNP chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa, who enjoyed being brought to Baguio for his testimonial parade at the Philippine Military Academy. (READ: Bato dela Rosa set to bid goodbye to PNP)
The Monday morning trip was apparently its "maiden flight" before the PNP uses the vehicle for disaster response and humanitarian deployments among other missions.
"The PNP’s acquisition of the Bell 429 twin-engine rotary wing aircraft will greatly enhance the operational flexibility by providing air support to ground troops. This multi-role police helicopter is designed to perform a variety of air support missions," Dela Rosa said in his early morning press conference.
The helicopter was delivered 3 months earlier than expected, as Bell Asia Pacific initially promised to send it over by July 2018.
Before its takeoff, the chopper was blessed with Dela Rosa and the PNP's top logistics officials Deputy Director General Francisco Archie Gamboa and Director Jose Ma. Victor Ramos.
The PNP awarded the P435-million contract to Bell on June 20 in 2017, after the company presented the "lowest calculated and responsive bid" for a rotary twin-engine aircraft.
Questions of the contract pushing through hounded the PNP after President Rodrigo Duterte canceled a similar contract of the Armed Forces of the Philippines with Canada. Amid concerns over human rights, the North American country ordered a probe into the deal, vexing Duterte so much that he abruptly canceled the contract. (READ: Duterte cancels Canada Bell helicopter deal)
According to Ramos, the contract pushed through after Duterte gave his approval. Ramos added the PNP's deal was not done with the Canadian government, but rather with Bell itself, which is based in the United States. – Rappler.com
Video by Nappy Manegdeg/Rappler