Aquino expects reforms in Air Force to continue under new chief

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Friday, April 25, 2014

PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino III vowed on Friday to continue the modernization of the military, especially the Philippine Air Force (PAF), with the appointment of its new head.

During the PAF's change of command ceremony held at the Fernando Air Base in Lipa City, Batangas, the President said he expects incoming chief Major General Jeffrey Delgado to continue with the reforms initiated by his predecessor, Lieutenant General Lauro Catalino dela Cruz.

General Delgado is the 33rd PAF chief. He is a seasoned combat pilot, and a member of the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1982.

"Kumpiyansa naman po tayong higit pang titibay at lalakas ang hanay ng ating mga kawal lalo pa't may gobyerno na kayong tunay na kumakalinga sa inyo," he said in a speech.

After the PAF retired its fleet of F-5 freedom fighter aircraft, the President said he wanted to acquire modern jets to hone the skills of PAF pilots.

The good news, he said, is that starting next year, PAF will start to receive the delivery of 12 new FA50 jets from South Korea.

The government also aims to buy eight combat utility helicopters; six close air support aircraft, two long-range patrol aircraft, and radar systems to beef up the country’s military capability in the midst of regional threats.

Acquiring a full-motion flight simulator is also part of government plans, he said, noting that it will help enhance the skills of PAF pilots.

Under the leadership of Dela Cruz, the PAF acquired C-130 cargo planes, eight Polish-made Sokol combat utility helicopters, and 18 basic trainer aircraft.

"Kasabay naman ng pagkakaloob sa inyo ng mga makabagong kagamitan, itinataguyod na rin natin ang maayos na pamumuhay ng inyong pamilya.
“Tuloy-tuloy ang ating programang pabahay, mga proyektong pangkabuhayan, at ang paglalatag ng mga stratehiya para matutukan ang kapakanan, maging ng mga nagreretirong sundalo," he said. "Sa nakalipas na halos apat na taon, nakamit natin ang positibong bunga ng ating mabuting pamamahala."

The President also hailed the role of the PAF when disasters hit the country last year.

The Air Force became a leading arm of the government in responding to the attack of Muslim rebels in Zamboanga City, as well as when a strong earthquake hit Cebu and Bohol, the President said.

He also said that the PAF made a major contribution in the government's search and relief efforts in the aftermath of Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) in the Visayan region last year.

"Nang nangailangan ang ating mga kababayan, walang dalawang-isip na sumuong sa disaster area ang ating unipormadong hanay. Hindi po kalabisang sabihin na nadala kayo ng magandang halimbawa ng inyong mga pinuno. Sa hanay nga po ng Air Force, nariyan ang inyong pangkalahatang piloto na si Lt. Gen. dela Cruz na gumabay sa inyo sa matuwid na direksyon," he said.

The new Air Force chief on Friday vowed to lead to new heights the major service command, which is considered as one of the weakest in the Southeast Asian region.

"The clarion call is to have a credible defense posture, to pursue the ends of policy and protect our core interest," said Delgado in turnover rites held at the Fernando Air Base in Lipa City.

Delgado said the internal stability, through the implementation of the Internal Peace and Security Plan Bayanihan, has already "taken root." The IPSP Bayanihan is the military's blueprint in winning the peace.

He said the progress in the internal security campaign has prompted the defense department "to shift its focus to the more pressing concerns of territorial defense."

The Defense department is in the process of acquiring more modern assets for the Armed Forces, including fighter jets, long-range patrol aircraft, combat utility helicopters and radars for the use of the Air Force.

"What is most encouraging is the full support of our national leadership to modernize the AFP which deserves the whole-hearted thanks from all of us," said Delgado.

"The initial delivery, starting this year, of various advance aircraft, new radars and modern equipment will translate to increased capabilities for air defense, maritime security and national development," added Delgado.

He said the Air Force will utilize these assets with the best of their abilities.

Laying down the direction of his leadership, Delgado said he will continue with the programs introduced by his predecessors by enhancing their capability, professionalism and discipline.

He said he will also align the Air Force Flight Plan with the Department of National Defense and AFP Transformation Roadmaps.

"This will guide our activities in the pursuit of security sector reform. As the new pilot in command, I will increase back pressure and add more thrusts to propel the organization in step with the defense establishment, the national government and our valued stakeholders," he said.

"Third, we shall build an organization that will ensure high levels of operational readiness to meet any contingency 24/7," Delgado also said.

He said propelling the Air Force to "ably perform" its mandate requires "learning, strategy and character."

He said learning means receiving and employing "new weapon system of higher technology and sophistication", strategy means harnessing their capabilities "to address current and emerging challenges in our environment", and character means turning every airman into "bedrock of discipline, law and order."

The Air Force lacks the fighter jet capability since the decommissioning of a fleet of F-5s in 2005. It also lacks an effective radar system to monitor violation of the country's airspace. (SDR/VR/Sunnex)

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