More helicopters coming to improve PNP air capability

MORE police aircrafts are to be acquired by the Philippine National Police this year to help improve the force’s air capability needed in countering the presence of criminals specifically international drug traffickers taking advantage of the country’s largely unguarded vast coastlines and territorial waters and speeding up police search-and-rescue operations, the Journal Group learned yesterday.

According to PNP Director for Logistics, Major General Edwin C. Roque, 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 be already in the PNP air assets by Year 2020.

Roque said that P1.8 billion worth C-293 can carry a platoon of police commandos and one Hummer transport vehicle.

Roque said that once the 2019 budget is finally approved, they will already award the contract to the supplier of the two Air Bus helicopters whose acquisition 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.

The PNP last year allotted roughly P1.135 billion to procure additional aircrafts and patrol boats needed to help counter the presence of international drug traffickers, kidnappers and other lawless elements in the country..

The money -- P1,134,388,799.38 to be exact -- will  also be used to improve the PNP’s response in any disaster or emergency situation taking place in the local seawaters, the country’s top cop told the Journal Group.

“We’re beefing-up our air and sea assets to help guard against intrusions by international drug smugglers, kidnappers, pirates, poachers and other criminal elements taking advantage of the country’s unguarded long sealanes and coastal areas,” Gen. Albayalde said.

Apart from the PNP, only the Armed Forces with its Philippine Navy and Air Force and the Philippine Coast Guard have ships and patrol boats and planes and helicopters which however are not enough to guard the country’s vast irregular seawaters and coastal areas.

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 thru Philippine waters and intercept them at all.

The best that the country’s armed services can do when drug smugglers using powerful speedboats and high-tech ‘mother ships’ are already passing thru Philippine waters is to seek the help of foreign law enforcement agencies including the United States Drug Enforcement Administration so drug smugglers could be apprehended.

To help watch the country’s 36,000-kilometer-long coastlines against illegal intrusions, the PNP chief said that the PNP capability enhancement program has programmed more ‘floating and flying assets’ for the PNP Maritime Group and the PNP Aviation Security Group to boost police response against criminal activities in the country’s waters.

He said the move is also aimed at boosting police response against international drug smugglers including those behind the recent recovery of nearly P1 billion worth of cocaine in the eastern shores of the Philippines, believed to have come from vessels in the high seas of the Pacific.

More air and maritime assets also means a more effective police response in disaster or emergency situations in the sea.     

According to Gen. Albayalde,  the PNP Bids and Awards Committee last year approved the procurement of 28 units of high-speed tactical watercraft amounting to P336,000,000. So far, seven of the units have been delivered to the PNP and are already being used by the police.

Another 18 more units of similar high-speed tactical watercraft are programmed under the 2019 procurement program as additional equipment for maritime operations, police visibility in the shorelines, and maritime law enforcement and public safety operations.

At present, the PNP fleet of watercraft include 107 police rubber boats, 19 coastal craft, 25 fast boats, four speed boats, and 10 gun boats or dauntless boats being used by 17 Regional Maritime Units, three  Maritime Special Operations Units, and other police maritime stations nationwide.