MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has released the special allotment release order (SARO) for the 12 lead-in fighter trainer jets to be acquired by the government from South Korea that will pave the way for the implementation of the P18.9-billion project.
Defense Undersecretary Fernando Manalo confirmed that the SARO for the acquisition of the FA-50s was issued by the DBM on June 24.
“With the SARO, the secretary of national defense can now issue the notice to proceed or NTP,” Manalo told The STAR over the weekend.
“The NTP, once received and concurred with by the supplier, will be the start of the contract implementation.”
The Philippine government and Korea Aerospace Industries Ltd. (KAI) signed the contract for the procurement of 12 lead-in fighter trainer jets last March.
The project, the biggest item in the military’s upgrade program, aims to enhance the territorial defense capabilities of the Philippine Air Force.
The Philippines had been trying to improve its military capability amid territorial disputes in the West Philippine Sea.
The delivery of the FA-50s will start 18 months after the opening of the letter of credit, a document that assures the Korean company that the Philippines will fulfill its obligations.
The delivery of the fighter jets is expected to be completed by 2017.
FA-50s have fighter capabilities but have features that are different from more advanced fighter jets. Its design was drafted from Lockheed F-16 fighter jet. Lead-in trainer jets, on the other hand, are used to prepare pilots for more advanced air assets.
The multibillion-peso contract is a product of about six months of negotiations between Philippine defense officials and KAI. The funds for the project will come from the Revised Armed Forces Modernization Program signed by President Aquino in 2012.
The government is also planning to acquire weapons and basing support for the FA-50s.
According to the defense department, the munitions for the lead-in fighter trainer jets will require P4.5 billion. Earlier reports said the jets could be armed with precision guided bombers and air-to-air and air-to-surface missiles.
Officials had earlier said that the munitions may be acquired through negotiated bid and public bidding.
The basing support for the fighter jets, on the other hand, will require P135.99 million.