By Genalyn Kabiling
A longtime friend of President Duterte has come to help save the day amid the government’s typhoon relief efforts.
The President has thanked businessman Archibald Po for lending his airplane to transport food supplies to areas affected by typhoon Ompong.
In his visit to La Trinidad, Benguet on Monday, the President said Po has offered to airlift the food supplies for free but Duterte wanted to pay his company for the next flight.
Po, the owner of Lionair Inc., is the same person who lent Duterte a helicopter during the presidential campaign in 2016. The President’s friend was present in the government’s situation briefing in Benguet.
“I have here with me a good friend of mine si Archie Po who owns the Lionair. He has a 727, malaki ‘yan to airlift ‘yung wala dito, pagkain [He has a 727 a huge airplane to airlift food supplies that are not available here],” Duterte said during a meeting with officials on rescue and relief efforts in Benguet.
“He has offered to help, to use his plane pero bayaran natin siya [but let’s pay him],” he added.
Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol informed the President that Po has actually offered the use of his airplane for free.
Duterte jokingly quipped that Po’s company might incur losses if he was not paid for the relief operation.
“Ah, libre una. Unang biyahe lang. Lugi na,” Duterte said, drawing laughter from the officials present.
“Salamat, Archie ha. Archie has been a friend of mine. He owns maraming helicopter. Siya ‘yung tumulong sa akin noon [Thanks Archie. Archie has been a friend of mine. He owns many helicopters. He was the one who helped me before],” he said.
Duterte recalled that he used to ride Po’s helicopter during the campaign sorties. He said there were times the chopper landed in fields and basketball courts just so he could reach far-flung towns
“Ito totoo ito. Nung kampanya, that was the time that I really, really — I was able to tour the entire length and breadth of the country,” he said.
The President was in Benguet to meet the families of the victims of the landslide in Itogon and conduct a situation briefing with concerned officials. Duterte previously visited typhoon-hit Cagayan and Ilocos Norte to bring government aid to the affected communities.
Prior to the meeting with officials, the President offered his condolences to the victims’ families and gave them financial assistance. The families received P45,000 each — P20,000 in cash and P25,000 worth of goods and funeral and burial assistance.
The President has also blamed “uncontrolled” mining for the massive landline that hit a mining shelter in Itogon.
Duterte said if he had his way, he would stop all mining operations in the country. He also directed Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu to take a “second look” into the dangers of open-pit mining.
“We cannot end mining because there’s a law — and to end mining, it is Congress that will have to abrogate the law,” he said.
“One day, sabi ko, I will just have to confront Congress. Sabihin ko talaga sa kanila na, ‘We have to close the mining industry or better still plan a period then give Mother Earth a respite of the continued and endless digging,'” he said.