Senate allots ₱1 billion for new police choppers

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — The Senate allotted ₱1 billion for the purchase of several new choppers for police use, two senators confirmed Wednesday.

"We will be able to purchase four or five [choppers] this time," Sen. JV Ejercito told The Source. "So at least now the Philippine National Police will have better equipment."

Ejercito previously pushed for the purchase of new choppers, which he called "essential in fighting crime and maintaining peace and order." He added that the choppers were "a necessity, not a luxury" for the police force, especially given potential terrorist attacks.

The Senate approved a ₱3.350 trillion national budget for 2017 late last year. In the budget ratified by President Rodrigo Duterte last month, over ₱110 billion was allotted to the PNP.

However, Ejercito missed the budget deliberations due to his suspension after graft and malversation cases were filed against him.

Ejercito said he had asked Minority Leader Sen. Ralph Recto to push for the choppers in his absence.

"I was only requesting for 300 million to purchase two choppers immediately for the (PNP)," said Ejercito. "Because of (Recto's) prowess he was able to (make it) 1 billion."

Recto confirmed the figure in a text message to CNN Philippines, adding that the choppers will be in use this year.

He said that the minority allotted "billions of pesos" to the PNP budget "to improve [their] ability to fight crime with better facilities and equipment including firearms, communications and vehicles for land, sea and air."

"(I) am glad the majority in the Senate supported (the) minority's proposals," said Recto.

He also added that "The DBM should release the funds and PNP must bid out the project properly."

PNP spokesman Sr. Supt. Dionardo Carlos told CNN Philippines that he had yet to confirm the specifications of their budget, but "it is part of the plan to acquire flying assets."

"It is also included in our PNP modernization plan," said Carlos. "Isinama po yan para mapunan ang need [We included it so the need will be met]."

He also assured that they would follow standard procedures in acquiring the choppers should they receive the allotted money for it.

"If there is (a) fund, we make sure we will follow the procurement law," Carlos said of the purchase of the choppers.

 

The PNP was previously implicated in the anomalous purchase of used helicopters from former first gentleman Mike Arroyo in 2009. Arroyo faced graft and plunder charges for his alleged involvement and the helicopters have since been grounded.

Ejercito was acquitted from graft raps last month following a questionable purchase of high-powered firearms using San Juan City's calamity fund — back when he was still San Juan's mayor.

However, the Office of the Ombudsman filed a motion for reconsideration following the dismissal of the graft case against him on Wednesday.

A case of technical malversation for the same firearm purchase is also pending against him at the Sandiganbayan.

Ejercito said he was "quite confident" that this case would be dismissed.

Transportation, infrastructure as priorities

Now that he is back to work, Ejercito enumerates his priorities to include advancements in infrastructure and transportation.

"In terms of transportation (and) traffic congestion, we really need massive infrastructure — railways, highways — and this will take a minimum of three to five years before we see anything concrete," Ejercito said.

He believes that the foreign policy shift away from the west will speed up infrastructure and pressure other foreign companies like the Japan International Coordination Agency (JICA) to finish their projects sooner.

"What I see... is that JICA and Japan right now see this as a threat," said Ejercito. "With China... coming in, I think they will be moving quickly and faster this time."

 

Ejercito is also in favor of granting emergency powers to the President — to speed up solutions to the country's transport woes--adding that these powers should cover land, sea, and air transportation.

"I'm quite confident that (in the) first quarter it will be passed already," Ejercito said.

"Because I think we are all in agreement in the Senate that the emergency powers [are] really needed," he added.