July 6, 2010
by Joyce Pangco Pañares
After ditching the use of sirens and blinkers, President Benigno Aquino III is now mulling over taking commercial flights instead of using the 30-year old Fokker F-28 for his domestic travels.
Aquino, after addressing the 63rd anniversary of the Philippine Air Force at the Villamor Air Base, said he was very conscious of the scant air assets of the military and the need to upgrade and modernize equipment.
“I think we have all seen the assets of the Philippine Air Force on display. One of them is the F-28, the presidential aircraft that is at least 30 years old,” he said in an ambush interview.
“I feel it is better for us to take commercial flights instead,” Mr. Aquino said.
When asked if he is prepared for the inconvenience that he and his delegation might have to bear when flying commercial, the President said: My comfort will be the last priority.
His predecessor, Pampanga Rep. Gloria Arroyo, earlier wanted to buy a fixed-wing executive jet worth P1.2 billion to replace the old Fokker but junked the bid call after receiving much flak for the planned procurement.
Mr. Aquino proved yesterday that proper time management would allow him to be on time for his engagements even without the use of blaring sirens.
After being late for almost an hour for the Armed Forces’ turnover rites Friday, he beat the morning traffic yesterday from his family’s residence at Times St. in Quezon City to Malacanang to lead the flag-raising ceremony at the Kalayaan Hall at 8 a.m. and was also 15 minutes early for the Air Force event.
According to Presidential Security Group commander Col. Ramon Dizon, the sirens and blinkers of the presidential convoy will only be used during emergencies or life threatening situations.
“We have already made security adjustments to follow the President’s order not to use sirens or blinkers, but we did not remove them in case the need to use them arises,” Dizon said in a separate interview.
Mr. Aquino said he has yet to transfer to the one-room Bahay Pangarap within the PSG compound as construction of new rooms for his close-in security as well as better flood control systems have yet to be completed.
“When Pasig River overflows, Bahay Pangarap becomes flooded. They’re completing the necessary construction, and they told me it will take about a month to finish,” he said.
Mr. Aquino ordered Defense chief Voltaire Gazmin to review the national defense policies of the government to strike a balance between the military’s budgetary constraints and the need to procure new equipment or upgrade old ones.