Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri has called for the modernization of the Philippine Air Force (PAF) following recent accidents involving military aircrafts.
Zubiri, in a privilege speech on Tuesday, lamented the deaths of seven military personnel after a PAF helicopter they were in crashed in Bukidnon last January 16. Officials cited “engine trouble” as a cause of the accident.
“We condole and offer our deepest sympathies to the family of our fallen soldiers. The Senate honors them for their service to the nation. However, the accident reminded me of what the media used to call our military aircrafts in the 80s and 90s – they used to call them ‘flying coffins’ even to a certain extent calling them ‘widowmakers’,” the Senate Majority Leader said.
He also recalled three similar incidents in the past six months that resulted in the deaths of nine servicemen, deaths he described as “senseless” as he said that the accidents could have been avoided.
While acknowledging the Armed Forces’ efforts in modernizing military assets, Zubiri said the helicopters that the PAF are using should be looked into.
“These Huey helicopters are older than me, some of them were built in 1966, 1967. They are 50 to 55 years old. In hardware and aircraft machinery, the wear and tear of their airframe due to long hours of use is a big factor why some of these aircrafts actually crash,” he said.
“What I am driving at is how we need to modernize our military hardware and equipment, including our aircraft. Maybe now, it’s time that we modernize our Air Force as well,” he added.
Senator Ronald dela Rosa agreed with Zubiri, saying the accidents highlight the need to constantly fund the Armed Forces’ modernization program.
“It bears reiterating that the constant maintenance of our aircraft, as well as the procurement of new and modern equipment, are essential to guarantee that the sacrifices and lives of our soldiers will not merely be put to waste because of engine trouble only,” Dela Rosa said.
Senator Richard Gordon said that upgrading the military capabilities will also strengthen the country’s national security and defense.
According to Sen. Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, the PAF’s budget has been increased by P400 million this year.
Zubiri said the Senate is prepared to allocate funds for the military’s modernization program for 2022 and the succeeding years.