By: Jaime Sinapit and Ernie Reyes, InterAksyon.com November 25, 2013 3:58 PM
MANILA, Philippines -- (UPDATE - 6:38 p.m.) The Air Force needs at least nine more C130 transport aircraft if the military is to respond more quickly, effectively and sustainably during calamities and other emergencies, Armed Forces chief General Emmanuel Bautista said Monday.
Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto agreed on the need for more air transports, saying: “If we were able to arrange funding for a squadron of South Korean-made FA-50 jets, then there’s no reason why we can’t do the same to C-130s.”
The government has sealed a deal to acquire a dozen of the Korean fighters for almost P19 billion.
From a high of 18 C130s, the Air Force currently has only three "mission capable" transports.
“‘Yung ideal? Ang sabi sa akin ng Air Force (The ideal? The Air Force told m) they will be happy if they will get nine C130s. (At present) we have three. We are trying to acquire two more (and) we will try to get more,” Bautista said.
The Navy, too, needs more ships such as logistics support vessels and strategic sealift vessels, he added.
“These are not just for military operations but for other operations like rescue and relief efforts … In fact, we need more and we will try to acquire more as the resources allow us,” Bautista said.
In October, sources said there was talk the US government will be giving the country three 3 C130s.
A senior officer who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak on the matter said this was supposed to be announced by US President Barrack Obama during his visit to country, which was, however, scrapped by the federal government shutdown.
Recto said even if no funds are immediately available to purchase new transports, the government can still double the number of its operational C-130 planes to six next year by earmarking P1.5 billion in the 2014 national budget.
“So if we set aside P1.5 billion in next year’s budget, then we will be able to double the number of our C-130 fleet. And that is a very wise investment the country should make,” Recto said.
He also said mothballed C130s can be refurbished for P500 million, according to estimates he received from the Air Force.
Recto said the cost of refurbishing one mothballed C-130 in the Philippine Air Force inventory is P500 million.
Stressing the need for additional transport aircraft, Recto said the Air Force's C130s "have conducted almost round-the-clock humanitarian airlifts" in the aftermath of super typhoon Yolanda and were also crucial during the response to the October 15 Central Visayas earthquake as well as the fighting between government forces and the Moro National Liberation Front in Zamboanga City.