The Philippines is planning to go on a military equipment shopping spree, which includes the purchase of additional Black Hawk helicopters and offshore patrol vessels.
According to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, the Department of Budget and Management has approved billions of pesos in funding for additional defense equipment more than six months before President Rodrigo Duterte’s term expires.
A total of 32 Black Hawk helicopters will be ordered from Polish aerospace manufacturer PZL Mielec for a total amount of 32 billion Philippine pesos ($635 million). Meanwhile, six offshore patrol vessels will be acquired from Australian shipbuilding company Austal for 30 billion Philippine pesos ($595 million).
The Philippine military plans to utilize the iconic Black Hawks for various missions, including surveillance, disaster response, medical evacuation, and search and rescue.
Earlier this year, the country procured 16 Black Hawk helicopters for 12 billion Philippine pesos ($238 million) from PZL Mielec to replace its aging Hueys (UH-1H).
AFP Chief of Staff LtGen Andres C. Centino joins SND Delfin N. Lorenzana in the formal acceptance, blessing, and turnover of five additional Black Hawk S-70i helicopters at the Clark Air Base on Friday, 03 December 2021.
— Armed Forces of the Philippines (@TeamAFP) December 4, 2021
Bolstering Maritime Defense Capabilities
Lorenzana expressed that the offshore patrol vessels would significantly boost the protection of the country’s maritime territories, especially amid increasing tensions with China over the South China Sea.
In addition to patrol vessels, the official revealed that the navy is awaiting budget approval for additional corvettes for coastal patrol.
Last month, it was reported that the Philippine Navy would retire some of its most decorated vessels, including the BRP Miguel Malvar (PS-19), BRP Magat Salamat (PS-20), and BRP Mangyan (AS-71).
Philippine Fleet Commander Rear Admiral Loumer Bernabe said these aging vessels are often down for maintenance, which causes the service to spend money that could be used in acquiring new and more efficient patrol boats.
Improving Troop Welfare
Newly-appointed Philippine Army chief Maj. Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. has also vowed to focus on the welfare and morale of soldiers.
He stated that Filipino troops are the army’s most critical resource, so they must further improve their core competency in warfighting.
Brawner explained that soldiers must have the necessary capabilities to comply with the orders of Duterte, particularly in eliminating communist rebels by mid-2022.