Beechcraft King Air. Philippinesgovernment needs at least six new aircrafts—one regional jet, one jet for local travel, two propeller-driven aircrafts (1 Queen Air and 1 King Air), and two helicopters. (photo : executivejetco)
MANILA (Updated) -- The tragic death of Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo in a plane crash Saturday prompted calls for government to get new aircrafts to ensure safety of high-ranking state officials during out-of-town trips.
The minority bloc in the House of Representatives said government should spend US$85 million (P3.6 billion) for the purchase of at least six new aircrafts.
Robredo and two pilots died Saturday after a chartered Piper Seneca plane carrying them to Naga City crashed before reaching the airport in Masbate City. The Cabinet official and his party came from Cebu for an official business trip when they met the accident. Robredo's aide, June Paolo Abrazado, survived the crash with only a few injuries.
House Minority Leader Danilo Suarez said the government needs at least six new aircrafts—one regional jet, one jet for local travel, two propeller-driven aircrafts (1 Queen Air and 1 King Air), and two helicopters.
"We should not put a tag price in the security of our leaders," he said in a press conference Wednesday.
Suarez said the Airlift Wing of the Philippine Air Force, which has the mandate of providing safe air transport for the President and members of his official family, has a fleet of aircraft and helicopters but most of which are older than Aquino.
Beechcraft Queen Air (photo : flugzeuginfo)
"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," the close ally of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo said, adding that the new aircrafts will also benefit political leaders after Aquino's term.
Back in August 2009, then President Arroyo reportedly cancelled an order for a presidential jet after the public reacted negatively to the purchase.
Senate President Juan Ponce-Enrile, who held Cabinet positions during the time of then President Ferdinand Marcos, saw nothing wrong of the proposal.
"During our time, we attempted to provide the executives of the government, especially those who are travelling often out of Manila, a safe transportation system. We are an archipelago. You traverse jungles and large bodies of water. When you travel by helicopter, if the helicopter crashes in the sea, there is zero survivability," he said in a chance interview.
He said it is normal for the government to receive criticism if and when it pushes through with the plan given other pressing problems such as poverty.
"That is the burden of leadership. You expect criticism because you cannot please everybody when you make a decision," Enrile said.
The House minority bloc also asked the government to immediately review all modes of public transportation following Robredo's death.