Philippine Air force eyeing new bases in the South

Basa Airbase

The Philippine Air Force (PAF) is eyeing the establishment of additional bases within the next two to three years as focus will be shifted to territorial defense, an official said

"A strategic recasting" towards territorial defense will require "the drawing of new basing and relocation plans… the remapping of stations," said Lt. Gen. Lauro Catalino G. Dela Cruz, PAF commanding general, during the anniversary celebration of the service command.

Col. Miguel Ernesto G. Okol, PAF spokesperson, said on the sidelines of the PAF's 65th anniversary, that Lumbia Airport in Cagayan de Oro City has been "initially identified" as a potential site for a new base.

The PAF currently has eight air bases, namely, Clark, Basa, Col. Jesus Villamor, Danilo Atienza, Fernando, and Antonio Bautista in Luzon; Mactan Benito Ebuen in Visayas; and Edwin Andrews in Mindanao.

The new bases will "meet the challenges of a rapidly changing threat environment," said Mr. Dela Cruz.

Meanwhile, Mr. Okol said air force personnel will be relocated from the Danilo Atienza Air Base in Cavite to make way for civil aviation.

The Manila International Airport Authority has previously proposed to move the entire general aviation section to other sites, including the former US Naval Station in Sangley Point, in Cavite province. The transfer is aimed at decongesting the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, which shares a runway with the air force main headquarters in Villamor Air Base, Pasay City.

As this developed, the PAF anniversary celebration saw the revival of the fly-by -- a parade, and acrobatics presentation of around 40 air assets -- which was last held 15 years ago.

"We are reliving this golden tradition of the PAF… as we are the air force, we should be flying," Mr. Okol said in a separate statement.

"This also signals that we are regaining our strength and will soon be a potent force in our defense and security operations," he added.

Once a leading force in the region, the country's air unit had been struggling with an ageing fleet.

But the administration has been consistent in "acquiring new and potent replacements for our old and unreliable air assets," said Defense Secretary Voltaire T. Gazmin in his remarks during the celebrations.

"We are now very determined in our intention to modernize," he added.

The department has targeted to approve 138 modernization projects by the end of July, including three radars systems, 21 utility helicopters, 10 attack helicopters, four additional search-and-rescue helicopters, two long-range patrol aircraft, a special mission aircraft, three medium-lift aircraft and 12 lead-in fighters. These are expected to boost the air power in the next two years.

"We need to have potent and reliable air platforms for our air skippers and crew to operate and fly," Mr. Gazmin said.

The government has been building up its defense posture in light of territorial disputes in the West Philippines Sea, a resource-rich area claimed in part or wholly by the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan.

The area also groups the Scarborough Shoal west of Luzon, a small reef that is within the country's exclusive economic zone but is also contested by China.

Businessworld Online

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