DAVAO CITY, Philippines - The Aquino administration’s purchase of 12 FA-50 lead in fighter trainer jets is just a waste of money as the air assets are only being used now for ceremonies, President-elect Rodrigo Duterte said.
Duterte said the jets – the biggest items in the military’s modernization shopping list – cannot be used to fight insurgency.
He added that the two FA-50s that were delivered to the Air Force are not enough to challenge China, which has occupied Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, a fishing area off Zambales that is within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.
“We only have what two FA-50s? Why did you buy that?” Duterte said in a business forum in Davao City last Tuesday.
“To the Air Force, do not misconstrue me. I’m a Filipino. I’m a citizen of this country and I have every right to say what I want to say. Sayang ang pera dun (Money was wasted there). You cannot use them for anti-insurgency, which is the problem at the moment. You can only use these for ceremonial fly-by,” he added.
The Aquino administration has bought 12 FA-50 jets from South Korea’s Korea Aerospace Industries for P18.9 billion to enhance the country’s territorial defense capabilities. Two of the jets were delivered in November while the ten others will be arrive in the country next year.
The jets conducted fly-bys during the 80th anniversary of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in Pampanga and national hero Jose Rizal’s 119th death anniversary in Manila last December.
Duterte said the money spent for the jets could have been used to buy helicopters or boats that would have prevented the kidnapping of three foreigners and a Filipina in Davao del Norte last year.
“If we had night vision goggles, we could have caught up with these guys and if we had fast boat, we could have pursued them,” he added, noting that the assets would have allowed security forces to reach Davao del Norte in two to three minutes.
Duterte said the internal security problems should be solved first so the country can promote tourism and lure more investments. Military officials previously claimed that they are achieving gains in their anti-insurgency campaign and are ready to shift their focus from internal security to territorial defense.
Abu Sayyaf bandits kidnapped Canadians John Ridsdel and Robert Hall, Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad and Filipina Maritess Flor at the Ocean View Resort in Samal Island off Davao Oriental last September.
The local terrorists beheaded Ridsdel last April and executed Hall last week because their ransom demands were not met. They have threatened to behead Sekkingstad next if his family fails to pay ransom.
The designated security officials of the incoming Duterte administration has asked the help of local executives to secure the release of the remaining captives.