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AFP to get warships, helicopters

TALISAY CITY – The Armed Forces of the Philippines is getting two more ships from the United States and Europe, and also acquiring 10 refurbished UH-IH Huey helicopters this year, in a bid of the government to modernize its poorly equipped military.

President Benigno Aquino III announced Saturday that the Philippines is due to receive another ship from the United States- a Hamilton-class Coast Guard cutter, following the acquisition last year of a similar patrol ship, which is now the BRP Gregorio del Pilar.

We have another one from Europe, Aquino said, adding that Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao will now have one ship each.

BRP Gregorio del Pilar, formerly a Hamilton 378-foot High Endurance Cutter of the United States Coast Guard, beefed up the poorly-equipped Philippine Navy vessels, majority of which had been built during World War 2.

Built primarily as a patrol ship of the US Coast Guard in the 1970s for open ocean and long range operations, BRP Gregorio del Pilar is now the pride of the Philippine Navy.

The government spent P400 million to refurbish the former US Coast Guard ship.

Aquino said the government will soon have 10 more refurbished Huey helicopters, in addition to 24 Philippine Air Force helicopters, that used to be at least 100 , whom General Rodolfo Biazon was still the AFP vice chief of staff.

The PAF recently received four of the eight brand new Sokol combat utility helicopters from Swidnik—which is touted as the "biggest helicopter manufacturer in Poland.”

Aquino said the refurbishing of Huey choppers is expected to be completed within eight months. “They will be utilized during evacuations, if there are floods and landslides”, he added.

Foreign Affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez had earlier said that the United States will double its military aid to the Philippines, which is engaged in a prolonged maritime standoff with China over a shoal off Zambales.

Hernandez said the “foreign-military financing” aid could be used to buy new equipment or maintain existing military resources.

The Philippines has been asking the United States to supply its armed forces with patrol boats and aircraft as well as radar systems amid an escalating territorial dispute with China.

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 Gilbert Bayoran | The Visayan Daily Star | May 7, 2012 | Article Link

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