DND chief vows to put force in Air Force

Posted at 07/06/2012 6:19 PM | Updated as of 07/07/2012 12:27 PM

MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) - The Philippine Air Force (PAF) will get more new aircraft in the next 2 years as part of the military's modernization program, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said Friday.

The airplanes include surface attack aircraft, lead-in fighter trainers, attack helicopters, and transport aircraft, "which are expected to be delivered within two years from now," Gazmin said during the PAF's 65th foundation celebrations held at the Fernando Air Base in Lipa City.

"Ahese aircraft shall once and for all, erase the ironic and naughty commentary that our present air force is all air, devoid of force," he said.

He said the government is focused on replacing "old and unreliable" aircraft to better protect the nation's territory.

"The job of the Philippine Air Force cannot be done by the determination and enthusiasm of our Air Force personnel alone. We need potent and reliable air platforms for our Air skippers and crew to operate and fly," Gazmin said.

He said the Air Force recently received 4 Sokol multi-purpose combat utility helicopters, and 4 more will be delivered this year.

"We have been relentless in our goal of acquiring new and potent replacements for our old and unreliable air assets. And we are now very determined in our intention to modernize," he said.

The defense department also plans to sign contracts by July 31 to implement 138 military modernization projects over the next five years, he added, without saying how much the contracts would cost or who would supply such equipment.

The Philippines has one of the most poorly-equipped militaries in the region, having retired the last of its fighter jets in 2005.

The weakness of the military was highlighted when the Philippines got into a standoff with China in April over the Scarborough Shoal, an outcropping of rocks in the South China Sea that both countries claim as their territory.

China claims nearly all of the South China Sea, even waters close to the coasts of neighbouring countries. The Philippines says the shoal is well within its 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone.

The two countries also have wider territorial disputes over parts of the Spratly islands in the South China Sea .

Gazmin did not mention the territorial dispute but stressed that air force personnel were all over the archipelago, including the West Philippine Sea-- the local term for the South China Sea.

The Philippines has looked to its main defense ally, the United States, to help it upgrade its armed forces but President Benigno Aquino said in an interview in May, that it was looking for aircraft from outside the US as well. - with a report from Agence France-Presse