MANILA (UPDATE)- The Philippine Air Force chief said Monday internal threats to the country's security have dwindled, allowing it to focus on preparations for external threats.
Part of the Air Force's continued effort to secure the country against external threats is the installation of four radars in addition to three existing ones, in critical areas across the archipelago, Lt. Gen. Connor Anthony Canlas, Sr. said at the Laging Handa briefing.
"'Pag na-install by 2024, makukumpleto na ang picture ng buong bansa at makikita ang mga intruders, lalo yung hindi nag-a-identify when we give them challenges, and we can respond accordingly," Canlas said.
(When everything is installed in 2024, we will have a complete monitoring of the entire country. We will be able to spot intruders, especially those who do not identify themselves upon initial challenge. Therefore, we can respond accordingly.)
With only six years left for its "Flight Plan 2028", its long-term transformation plan to enhance its air power capabilities which began in 2014, the Air Force hopes the modernization of the aerial branch of the country's armed forces will be sustained, he said.
"Nais po sana naming maipagpatuloy ang modernisasyon ng Air Force. Nakikita namin ang epekto ng external threat. Sana, ang nangyayari sa Russia at Ukraine ay hindi mag-trickle sa ating region. If it does, it will require more assets, na kailangan nating paghandaan," he said.
(We hope that the modernization of the Air Force is sustained. We see the increasing external threat and we hope the Russia-Ukraine conflict does not trickle into our region. We must be prepared in the event that it does, and this requires more assets.)
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana previously said that the most critical external security challenge for the Philippines is its maritime disputes with other countries in the South China Sea.
China has been the most aggressive in asserting its claims in the International waterway despite an arbitration court declaring in 2016 that such has no legal basis.
In a separate interview, Canlas said President Rodrigo Duterte already approved the acquisition of modern multi-role fighters (MRF) for which P61.2 billion had been allotted.
"The MRF acquisition was approved already by our President but the selection of the model, the type is still in the pipeline," the PAF chief said, adding he hopes the contract for the procurement of at least 12 units will be signed this or next year.
Several countries have submitted their proposals, which will go through the screening process, he said.
"It's actually a choice between the (US) F-16 and the Gripen of Sweden. But there are others who want to join though they have yet to forward any proposal. As of now, it's only the two," Canlas said.
"What we need actually now is multi-role (fighters) that's fourth generation and above, at least 12 units. It should be multi-role enough to do patrolling in our protected waters and territorial airspace," he added.
Lorenzana said last year that F-16s are expensive and that if the US will make a "favorable offer", the government may consider instead the Swedish Gripen.
There are currently 173 aircraft in the PAF inventory, comprised of both fixed-wing and rotary, intended for air mobility, search and rescue, surface strikes, and are defense functions, said Canlas.
An additional 32 Blackhawk helicopters will be added to its existing 16, as approved by outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte, he said. The Blackhawks are assigned to deliver relief goods and services to hard-to-access areas affected by disasters such as typhoons.
Canlas thanked the the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) for helping address internal security threats.
"Naliwanagan ang ating mga kababayan na ang hasik at lagim na dulot ng komunista sa bayan ay pabagsak ang maidudulot nito. Ang nakikita po naming threat sa internal security operations ay pababa na kaya magshi-shift na po sa external threat," he said.
(The NTF-ELCAC has made apparent to our citizens that the communist movement can only mean bad for our country. The threats to our internal security operations is weakening, and so we can shift our focus to external threats.)
The NTF-ELCAC has been criticized for allegedly red-tagging activists, celebrities and other personalities.
The Philippine Air Force will be celebrating its 75th anniversary on July 1 at Clark Airbase in Pampanga, where they have invited President-elect Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr., said Canlas.
"Ang Philippine Air Force ay maaasahan ng bawat Pilipino to be professional and God-fearing in adherence to our constitution and chain of command," he said.
(The Filipino people can count on the Philippine Air Force to be professional and God-fearing in its adherence to the constitution and the chain of command.)