FAMANILA  (Mabuhay) – After the Philippines sealed deals to purchase FA-50 fighter-trainers and eight Bell 412 helicopters  to boost its defense capability, a Philippine Air Force official on Saturday said they would have wanted more sophisticated fighters.

However, PAF spokesman Col. Miguel Okol said they will make do with the 12 brand-new FA-50 from South Korea and eight helicopters from Canada.

But he stressed PAF still needs Multi-Role Fighters or “real fighters” for the country’s defense.

Okol said a Multi-Role Fighter has swing-role capabilities, “it can swing air-to-air, air-to-surface, air-to-maritime,” and with its attack capabilities, enemies who will try to infiltrate the country will be “mangled up.”

He also noted that while President Benigno Aquino III, who is also the Armed Forces of the Philippines Commander-in-Chief, is aware of what is needed, the acquisition of brand-new FA-50 fighters “is already a good start [in] good direction.”

“Kung anong ibbiigay sa atin ngayon, we make do what is given,” he said, noting that FA-50 fighters can “carry missiles, intercept aircrafts, deliver bombs, perform maritime strikes….”

Defense vs China?

Okol was quick to deny that the planned acquisition of fighter jets and helicopters is solely due to the “creeping expansion” of China in the West Philippine Sea.

“[The purchases are] for homeland defense against all external threats. It’s just a start of our capability upgrade,” he said.

Asked when will the country’s defense attain “minimum capability,” he said it will be by 2023. “Dahan-dahan nating ia-attain ito,” he added.

On Friday, Fernando Manalo, undersecretary of defense for finance, munitions, installations and materiel, said the Philippines would acquire 12 brand-new FA-50 fighter-trainers and eight Bell 412 helicopters under a government-to-government deal.

“This is significant because we need to give our armed forces the minimum capability to perform its mission and responsibility,” Manalo told reporters after completing negotiations with the two companies.

Korean Aerospace Industries Ltd. got the contract for the fighter-trainers worth P18.9 billion while Canadian Commercial Corporation, which is licensed to market Bell helicopters, promised to deliver its first craft next year.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario on Friday warned that China was determined to change the status quo in the disputed waters, taking control of the Scarborough Shoal and forcing Manila to remove a transport ship that ran aground in the Second Thomas Shoal. (MNS)