Duterte eyes buying more military helicopters after Bukidnon crash

Job Manahan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 23 2021 05:11 PM

A Philippine Air Force UH-1H "Huey" helicopter ferries troops shortly after taking part in the Joint U.S.-Philippine Military Exercise flag dubbed "Balikatan 2019" at Crow Valley, Capas, Tarlac. AP/File

MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte has expressed his plans to buy brand new helicopters for the military, following the recent helicopter crash that killed 7 in Bukidnon. 

During his visit to the Kuta Heneral Teodulfo Bautista Headquarters in Sulu on Friday, Duterte said it was time to replace the Huey choppers that the military has been using. 

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Video courtesy of PCOO

The “Hueys,” short for the UH-1H and UH-1D models, are Vietnam War-era helicopters that have been refurbished. They serve as the main workhorse of the Philippine Air Force.

"Marami pa ba ‘yang Huey na ‘yan? Naiwan? Hindi, palitan ko na sana. Wala ng… Maano na talaga ‘yan, luma na," the chief executive said in a speech streamed Saturday morning. 

(Do we still have a lot of Hueys? I will just replace it because they are already old.)

He added he would try to buy at least 7 new helicopters to prevent further accidents attributed to the vessel being too old to fly. 

"Tingnan ko kung baka makabili ako ng iilan para pangpalit diyan sa Huey na ‘yan," he said. 

(I'll see if I can buy some to replace those Hueys.)

The President admitted he was "hurt" when he heard about the helicopter crash in Bukidnon that killed 7, including 5 military officers, and that he would look for funds to replace the air assets.

"I am not making any hard promises. But you can rest assured, I will try my best to look for money para palitan ko ‘yung mga luma na," he explained.

"These are all things screwing my mind kasi ‘yung recent crash, masaktan ka talaga... ako ‘yung parang administrador ng bayan tapos ganoon ang nangyari, masakit para sa akin."

(I was hurt with the crash because I am the country's administrator then that happened under my watch. It is hurtful.) 

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A senator this week said the deaths could have been avoidable if only the Armed Forces of the Philippines was "seriously" modernized. 

Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri also blamed the Huey helicopters for several accidents involving armed personnel in recent years. 

Because of this, Zubiri called for new military hardware and equipment, most especially air assets, to give soldiers a "fighting chance" during combat.