Aircraft problem delays Marcos visit to South Cotabato  

Michael Punongbayan, Alexis Romero - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — A technical issue on the Gulfstream G280 presidential jet delayed President Marcos’ flight to South Cotabato yesterday.

In a text message, Presidential Communications Secretary Cheloy Garafil said the plane that was supposed to carry Marcos to the province had to return to Villamor Air Base in Pasay City shortly after takeoff.

In a statement, the Philippine Air Force (PAF) said the G280 command and control aircraft that flew with Marcos onboard had to return due to a “minor technical issue on the aircraft’s flaps operations.”

A backup C295 aircraft brought Marcos to South Cotabato, where he witnessed the launching of a rice production and mechanization program and distributed various forms of assistance to local residents.

“The President is OK,” Garafil said.

“It is nothing serious, but since the PAF maintains the highest standards of flight safety, the pilots decided to do a precautionary return to base and have the aircraft thoroughly checked,” PAF spokesperson Col. Ma. Consuelo Castillo said.

“There was a ready backup aircraft, and so the presidential movement was resumed immediately,” she added.

Marcos’ activities in the southern province were supposed to start at 9 a.m. yesterday but because of the glitch, his first engagement began shortly before noon.

The President apologized for the delay in a speech during the launching of a rice production and mechanization program in Banga town. ?“Hihingi ako ng paumanhin ninyo at pinag-antay ko kayo ng ilang oras, mukhang ginugutom na kayo (I apologize for letting you wait for hours. It seems that you are now hungry),” the President said.

“Pero nangako si Gov. Jun (Tamayo) na magpapakain daw siya para hindi naman kayo masyadong lugi (But Gov. Jun promised to feed you so you won’t be that disadvantaged),” he added.

By yesterday afternoon, Castillo told reporters that the Gulfstream G280 was cleared and was used to fly the President from General Santos City to Bicol.

“Computerized po ang system ng aircraft, minor checks and adjustments po to ensure safe flight. Nothing serious,” Castillo said.

Acquired three years ago during the tern of former president Rodrigo Duterte, the Gulfstream G280 was bought from the United States for P36.999 million.

Former defense secretary Delfin Lorenzana, former health secretary Francisco Duque III, then interior secretary and now national Security Adviser Eduardo Año and then COVID-19 national policy chief implementer Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. along with other members of the Inter-Agency Task Force were the first to ride it when they carried medical supplies to Davao City in September 2020.

Critics had dubbed the presidential jet as a luxury aircraft for VIP passengers but defense officials had defended its acquisition, noting that the Gulfstream G280 “will primarily serve as platform to carry our senior leaders and commanders in the event of, example, crisis situation.”

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