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Chopper crash came amid PNP plan to buy more aircrafts

LAST Thursday’s chopper crash which nearly killed Philippine National Police chief General Archie Francisco F. Gamboa came in the wake of the PNP plan to acquire more aircrafts this year to help improve the force’s air capability needed in countering international drug traffickers taking advantage of the country’s largely unguarded vast coastlines and territorial waters and speeding up police search-and-rescue operations.

Last week alone, Gen. Gamboa led the unveiling of nearly P2.8 billion worth of newly-acquired police equipment including two units of single-engine Airbus H125 helicopters aimed at further improving the ‘move, shoot, communicate and investigate’ capabilities of the 205,000-strong force nationwide.

One of the victims of the helicopter crash, PNP Director for Comptrollership Major General Jose Ma. Victor DF Ramos, also the chairman of the PNP National Headquarters Bids and Awards Committee, is behind the “graft-free” procurement of the new weapons and equipment.

The brand-new equipment will be distributed to different PNP national operational units regional and provincial mobile forces and police stations across the country, the PNP chief said.

But in the wake of the Laguna helicopter crash, all police aircrafts were ordered temporarily grounded on orders of PNP Deputy Chief for Administration Lieutenant Gen. Camilo Pancratius P. Cascolan.

Grounded was the PNP fleet of rotary-wing Airbus H-125, Bell-429, and Robinson R-44 multi-role police helicopters.

Gen. Cascolan also ordered the activation of the Special Investigation Task Group ‘Bell 429’ to investigate the crash. The SITG is being headed by PNP Deputy Chief for Operations Lt. Gen. Guillermo Lorenzo T. Eleazar.

According to PNP Director for Logistics Major General Edwin C. Roque, the two 4-seater single engine Air Bus turbine helicopters worth P225 million each, three units of 6-seater twin-engine rotary blade helicopters at P436 million each and a powerful C-293 transport plane which is a smaller version of the popular C-130 will form part of the PNP air assets this year.

Roque said that P1.8 billion worth C-293 can carry a platoon of police commandos and one Hummer transport vehicle. He said that the acquisition of the two Air Bus helicopters was planned as early as 2018.

At present, the PNP has nine aircrafts composed of eight rotary-wing and one fixed-wing aircrafts. The acquisition of three additional rotary wing helicopters this year will bring to 20 the number of police aircrafts or a 33 percent fill-up.

Both the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency and the National Bureau of Investigation are yet to acquire airplanes, helicopters and speedboats that could be used to monitor the presence of ‘mother ships’ carrying huge volume of drugs passing through Philippine waters and intercept them at all.

The best that the country’s armed services can do when drug smugglers using powerful speedboats is to seek the help of foreign law enforcement agencies including the United States Drug Enforcement Administration so drug smugglers could be apprehended.