MANILA (UPDATE) – President Rodrigo Duterte will soon travel using a United States-built jet estimated at P2 billion despite previously vowing not to procure equipment from Washington.
The Gulfstream G280, set for delivery next year, will be used "in the event of a crisis situation," according to Arsenio Andolong, director of the Department of National Defense's Public Affairs Service.
Aside from the President, other senior leaders such as the Defense Secretary and the Armed Forces chief will use the plane, Andolong said.
"Although you want to use the term lightly or loosely, it is similar to an airborne command post. It would serve that purpose," he said.
"It has a capability better than the ordinary. It requires a short runway," Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo told reporters Tuesday.
Panelo also rejected the claim of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan Secretary-General Renato Reyes Jr., who said government "spends millions of dollars for the comfort of officials, while ordinary Filipinos endure the daily horrors of the transport crisis."
"'Di naman comfort 'yun. Kung may times of crisis eh 'di kailangan mo 'yun. Kung necessity ba't magwawaldas ka," he said.
(That's not comfort, if there are times of crisis then we need that. If it's a necessity, it's not spending much.)
"Si Presidente napaka-frugal (The President is very frugal), he doesn’t spend unless necessary."
Panelo added that the aircraft was not requested by the President and the deal with the US was negotiated by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.
The Philippine Air Force bought the aircraft through a contract with the United States government, the Gulfstream Aerospace Corp. said in a statement last week.
The President, who said he prefers to take economy flights when he travels, earlier vowed that his administration would no longer buy military equipment from the US after it threatened to impose sanctions on countries buying military equipment from Russia.
Duterte later said he would reconsider since he "likes" US President Donald Trump.
The aircraft procurement "might" pave the way for the Philippines to again purchase arms and other equipment from the US, Panelo said.
–With reports from Jorge Cariño, ABS-CBN News