Duterte wants presidential plane converted into air ambulance

Giovanni Nilles - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - President Duterte ordered yesterday the presidential plane converted into an air ambulance.

In a visit to Camp Vicente Lucban in Catbalogan City, Samar, Duterte said the Fokker F28 jet would have better use transporting the sick and the wounded to hospitals.

“I am comfortable with PAL and Cebu Pacific, it has been a long time since the last crash,” he said.

“I am comfortable with taking commercial flights and sometimes a private jet.” 

The 250th Presidential Airlift Wing of the Philippine Air Force is in charge of flying the President and his family, aside from providing transportation to visiting heads of state and other government officers.

It uses a Fokker F28 primarily to transport the President to domestic destinations, although its fleet includes a Fokker F27, four Bell 412 helicopters, three Sikorsky S-76 helicopters and one S-70 Black Hawk.

For trips abroad, the President could use a Bombardier Learjet 60, Challenger 850 or charter a Philippine Airlines aircraft.

Duterte apologized for arriving late in yesterday’s engagement, which was scheduled at noon, citing the breakdown of the aircraft that he was supposed to take.

“We had to borrow another,” he said in Filipino.

He was able to address the waiting military officers at around 6 p.m. yesterday.

Earlier, Duterte also revealed his plan to transform the presidential yacht, BRP Ang Pangulo, into a floating hospital so those wounded in battle or injured in natural calamities can be given immediate medical attention by sending the ship to the point nearest to them.

Former president Diosdado Macapagal was the first to use the yacht in 1959.

Former president Ferdinand Marcos also used it to host lavish parties for guests, while former president Joseph Estrada reportedly used it to host ‘mahjong’ parties, among others.

The late president Corazon Aquino tried to sell the ship as an attempt to do away with the lavishness of the Marcoses but there were no takers.


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