Duterte orders purchase of 15 Black Hawk helicopters to decommission all Hueys

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 4) — President Rodrigo Duterte has given the go-signal for the Department of National Defense to acquire 15 Black Hawk helicopters to replace Huey choppers, which will all be decommissioned, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said on Thursday.

He said the fresh directive issued during their Cabinet meeting on Wednesday comes after seven Philippine Air Force personnel died when their Huey chopper crashed in Bukidnon in January.

"This was the fourth such crash since July of last year. The President wants to end all these tragic deaths... The first Huey took flight 64 years ago. Kung tao ito, talagang due na for retirement [If it were a person, it's due for retirement]," he said in a media briefing.

He said the country needs 55 to 70 helicopters to cover the entire country. However, due to budget constraints brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, it will be significantly reduced to 15. But Nograles said this number will depend on negotiations that have yet to happen and budget granted by the Congress.

"We have only one remaining budget to be discussed, which is the budget for 2022. Given these realities and limitations, we have to temper kung ano ang makakayanan natin," he said.