By Aaron Recuenco
The Philippine National Police (PNP) has sent three police pilots to the United States for training in anticipation for the delivery of a twin-engine helicopter this March.
Deputy Director General Archie Gamboa of the PNP Chief Directorial Staff said the three pilots from the PNP are currently in Texas being trained how to fly the Bell twin-engine helicopter the PNP had bought.
“They are being trained so that when the chopper arrives in March this year, they know how to fly it,” Gamboa told the Manila Bulletin in an interview.
He added that the three pilots are accompanied by four more policemen who are expert in the repair and maintenance of helicopters.
Aside from the twin-engine chopper, Gamboa said two more single-engine helicopters from France are also expected to arrive in December this year.
The twin-engine helicopter from Bell costs some P400 million while the single-engine from France are priced at P200 million each.
“These will not be used for combat operations. These are for multipurpose use because the seats can be redesigned for various purposes such as for medical purposes,” said Gamboa.
While he discounted the possibility of the choppers being used for combat operations, he said the helicopters could be used for surveillance once they are able to procure night-vision capabilities.
Such night-vision capability, he said, could also be important if the choppers would be used for troop insertion.
But he was quick to clarify that the three choppers will not be mounted with firearms in order to convert them into attack helicopters.
The air assets of the PNP would be augmented as the General Appropriations Act has also approved the purchase of four more helicopters.
Aside from war on drugs, the PNP has also at least two units engaged in counter-insurgency operations—led by the Special Action Force—and a unit engaged in maritime patrol.
The PNP has been deprived of helicopters for several years now despite having some pilots assigned to the Special Action Force (SAF).
The last time that the PNP has procured helicopters was during the time of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo but the purchase of three choppers became controversial after it was found out that they were all secondhand but were bought at the price of brand-new ones.
Several police officials were charged in connection with the purchase of the said choppers.
“We would like to assure the public that we have learned our lessons. We put in place some measures to ensure that those mistakes will not be repeated,” said Gamboa.
Gamboa said the purchase of the choppers were supported and approved by President Duterte and both the Senate and the House of Representatives.