The Philippines will have more assets for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) missions as initial funding for the acquisition of 32 additional Polish-made S-70i “Black Hawk” combat utility helicopters were released on December 27.
“We are delighted with the release of the SARO (Special Allotment Release Order). We really need more helicopters, primarily for HADR missions,” Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) on Tuesday night when asked to comment on the initial budget release for the acquisition of the aircraft.
The S-70i units of the Philippine Air Force (PAF) are currently hard at work, transporting relief supplies and rescue personnel to areas battered by Typhoon Odette last month.
They have also been utilized to transport coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) vaccines in geographically isolated areas in the country.
The Department of Budget and Management on December 27 released a SARO to the defense department, amounting to PHP1.6 billion “to cover the initial funding requirement for the additional utility helicopters acquisition project of the Philippine Air Force under the Revised Armed Forces of the Philippines Modernization Program.”
Lorenzana earlier expressed hope that the contracts for the S-70is and six offshore patrol vessels (OPVs) would be finalized and signed by this month.
He also said the government has allocated PHP62 billion for the acquisition of 32 “Black Hawk” combat utility helicopters for the PAF and six OPVs for the Philippine Navy.
The PAF earlier completed the acquisition of 16 “Black Hawk” helicopters from the Polish company PZL Mielec worth USD241 million (about PHP11.5 billion).
The first batch of six “Black Hawk” helicopters was delivered in November 2020, followed by the second batch of five in June that was formally accepted, turned over, and blessed in a simple ceremony on October 13.
The last batch of five choppers was delivered on November 8 and formally accepted by the PAF on December 3.
One unit of the initial six units delivered to the country crashed on June 24, 2021 while on a night-flying exercise. (PNA)