Lorenzana: US attack helicopters beyond PH budget
MANILA, Philippines — Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the attack helicopters being offered by two American companies to the Philippines are way out of the Philippine government’s budget.
The defense chief said the Philippines has allocated only P13 billion for the attack helicopter acquisition project of the Philippine Air Force (PAF).
“The money allotted to buy attack helicopters is only P13 billion,” he said.
He said if the Philippines bought the American helicopters, the country could buy only one or two units. This was the reason, he said, that the Philippine military looked for other countries that can supply attack helicopters with more units than what the allotted funds could buy if these were bought from the US.
The US State Department has recently approved the possible sale of six units of Bell AH-1Z Viper and six units of Boeing AH-64E Apache attack helicopters to the Philippines.
The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency said the potential sale of Viper and related equipment carried a price tag of $450 million (around P22 billion), while the Apache AH-64E sales package costs around $1.5 billion (around P76 billion). These packages are not final, and may be adjusted upon the request of the Philippine government.
The offers came despite the Philippine Air Force’s selection of T129 ATAK helicopters of the Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) for its attack helicopter acquisition program. The Turkish supplier, however, is still trying to obtain an export license from the US government for subsystems because of sanctions imposed by Washington against Turkey for purchasing weapons from Russia.
The Philippines is getting six units of T129 ATAK helicopters from TAI. While a contract has not been signed yet, a Notice of Award has been issued in late 2019.
At the same briefing, Lorenzana also reacted sharply to leftist groups that are criticizing the helicopter purchase project.
“There are those who say, the leftists, they say why buy, why not give the money to the people?” Lorenzana said.
Earlier, Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate said that the government is already having difficulty finding funds for its COVID-19 response but had the temerity to still buy attack helicopters.
“The President said all the funds he was referring to last April is just in the air and that his administration now is in a tight fix looking for money to help the poor during the COVID lockdown,” Zarate had said.
“If it were so, why this plan still to buy war and killing machines like attack helicopters in the midst of this crisis?” he said.
“The new US arms deals will only fortify the President’s arsenal. We call for widespread education to mobilize people against the deal,” the US-based International Coalition of Human Rights in the Philippines said.
Edited by TSB
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