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DND firms up plans to buy 2 Italian warships worth P6B each

MANILA, Philippines - The Department of National Defense (DND) on Wednesday said plans had been firmed up to buy two Italian warships worth US$ 30 million (P6 billion) each to upgrade the Philippines' defense capabilities. 

At the hearing of the House of Representatives' appropriations committee of the DND's proposed P121.6-billion budget for next year, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said the purchase of Italian warships or frigates is part of the DND's modernization plan. 

The proposed budget is P15 billion higher than this year's capital outlay. 

Gazmin said the budget increase would be used for big investments aimed at beefing up territorial defense. 

Meanwhile, to ensure the safety of the President and his Cabinet, the House minority bloc said it was in favor of purchasing new planes dedicated for their use. 

House Minority Leader and Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez, in a press conference, said the government needed at least six new aircraft -- one regional jet, one jet for local travel, two propeller-driven aircraft (1 Queen Air and 1 King Air) and two helicopters. 

Suarez said the new planes would cost about US$ 85 million (roughly P3.6 billion). 

"We should not put a tag price on the security of our leaders. We are expressing our concern for the safety of the President and his family because, as we are all aware, our country does not have a dedicated Presidential plane and he takes chartered flights for official travel," he said. 

Besides, Suarez said the new aircraft would also benefit political leaders after the term of President Benigno S. Aquino III. 

The House minority leader also asked the government to review all modes of public transportation following the death of Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo, whose plane crashed off Masbate last Saturday afternoon on the way to Naga City from Cebu City.

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