THE soon-to-be activated Philippine National Police Air Unit is on its way to full modernization as the PNP has acquired at least more 10 police helicopters to further beef up the force’s combat operations as well as rescue operations and medical evacuation, General Debold M. Sinas said.
The police choppers are also needed in the conduct of aerial survey and lifting of vital assets. Their worth was tested anew when Sinas ordered an aerial survey of Cagayan Valley which was devastated by heavy flooding triggered by powerful typhoon ‘Ulysses’ last week.
Additional police helicopters are also needed to transport rescue personnel and relief goods in far-flung areas of the country including places where passage of land vehicles is next to impossible. This was proven in the case of Cagayan last week.
“Mayroon pang darating na kung ‘di ako nagkamali, 8 to 10 choppers. Na-bid na po ‘yan. Ang hinihintay na lang is ‘yung delivery. I talked to former PNP chief, General Archie Gamboa, siya kasi ‘yung sa time niya ‘yan, siya ‘yung deputy. We are very happy na tapos na ‘yan. Hinihintay na lang ang delivery,” the 25th PNP chief said.
According to Sinas, the delivery of the choppers was put on hold because of the COVID-19 pandemic this year. However, as soon as they arrive, they will be commissioned for use by the PNP Air Unit as well as the PNP Special Action Force and the other 17 police regional offices.
According to PNP Director for Logistics, Major Gen. Angelito A. Casimiro, the PNP now has a total of 10 air assets with the arrival of three H125 choppers, each purchased at P205,305,898.
“Mayroon tayong bagong dating lang na tatlong H125 na Air Bus which are now all undergoing field testing and evaluation prior to acceptance,” he said.
Apart from the three, the PNP has four H125s; two Robinson 44 trainer choppers; and one Cessna C150 trainer fixed wing.
Another Bell 429 chopper which crashed in San Pedro City, Laguna last March 5 was deemed beyond mechanical repair. Around P430 million in insurance from the ill-fated chopper would be used to buy two H130s Pump Air Ambulance, Casimiro said.
The March 5 crash nearly killed Gamboa and six others. Last month, one of the victims of the chopper crash, former PNP Comptroller, Maj. Gen. Jose Maria Victor DF Ramos succumbed to his injuries.
As part of its modernization program, the PNP is all set to activate its National Air Unit which will be separate from the PNP-SAF, Gamboa previously told the Journal Group.
The official said that due to the numerous air assets that the PNP already has, they can actually establish Air Squadrons and activate an Air Unit which will be a separate PNP National Operational Support Unit.
The current law requires five air squadrons and a single aircraft with a Pilot-in-Command (PIC) and a 2nd PIC, he explained.
At present, the PNP already has two PNP PICs who can fly helicopters. Last September, another Air Bus training for 11 PNP pilots who will transition to become PICs was also held.
The delivery of the three more H-125 units and the ongoing training of basic helicopter pilots who can soon sit down as 2nd-in-command of PNP choppers is enough for the PNP to open its Air Units, two each in Cebu and Davao cities and another in La Union province by February 2021.
By February next year, these choppers are expected to be already deployed to these places.