By Genalyn Kabiling
Malacañang found nothing wrong with the purchase of a P2-billion aircraft from the United States for the official trips of President Duterte and senior government officials.
Presidential Spokesman Savaldor defended that the brand new jet is a “necessity” since it will be used by government officials during crisis situations.
“The Secretary of National Defense explains it as the plane that will primarily serve as platform to carry senior leaders and commanders in the event of, for example, a crisis situation – that was his explanation,” Panelo said during a Palace press briefing.
“Kung may in times of crisis, eh di kailangan mo iyon. Kaya nga crisis eh, then there is necessity (In times of crisis, you’ll need it. If there’s a crisis, then there is necessity),” he said.
Asked if the jet purchase was justified, Panelo said: “Yeah of course. Eh si Presidente pa, di ba si Presidente napaka-frugal. He doesn’t spend unless necessary (Of course. the President is very frugal. He doesn’t spend unless necessary).”
US-based Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation earlier announced that the Philippine Air Force (PAF) has forged a contract through the US government to buy a brand new G280 jet, including parts, tooling and contractor logistics support. The new aircraft will reportedly be delivered in August next year.
Panelo said it was Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, not President Duterte, who pushed for the purchase of the new aircraft.
He also rejected allegations the government has spent public funds just for the comfort of the President and other senior public officials.
“Hindi naman comfort iyon. Komportable ba iyon? (It’s not for comfort. Is that comfortable?),” he said.
He explained that the modern aircraft would serve as a “an airborne command post” for top government officials during crisis situations.
“It has a capability better than the ordinary, like it requires a short runway,” he added.
With the purchase of the Gulfstream jet, Panelo admitted that this may signal other military acquisition from the United States. “Since we started one, that will be the logical consequence,” he said.
Last June, the President said the country may purchase weapons and other military hardware from the United States in case it needs a particular type of arsenal.
The President decided to reconsider the United States as one of the country’s arms suppliers after affirming that he respects US President Donald Trump and the country’s alliance with the western ally. “We’ll buy if we think we need that kind of particular (equipment),” Duterte said.
Back in January, the President announced he would no longer buy weapons from the United States over threats to impose sanctions against any country trading arms with Russia and China. He said the government was inclined to buy weapons from other countries such as Israel and South Korea.