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Malacañang cancels plan to purchase P1.2-B jet

August 16, 2009 2:16pm

Amid criticism of her travel expenses and questions about her personal wealth, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo on Sunday ordered the cancellation of the planned purchase of a presidential jet that would have cost the government at least P1.2 billion.

GMANews.TV on Thursday broke the story on the Office of the President's (OP) advertisement inviting bids to supply an aircraft for the president that had to be “factory new, twin-engine (turbo-fan engines), pressurized, fitted with auxiliary power unit, and with VIP cabin configuration."

Press Secretary Cerge Remonde, who announced Mrs. Arroyo’s new directive canceling the jet purchase, said the President wants to end the furor over her travel expenses.

Mrs. Arroyo has been criticized since last week for her “lavish" overseas dinners and alleged overspending on foreign trips.

The ad in the Philippine Star newspaper sought suppliers for a used executive jet because one of the two presidential aircraft, the 50-year-old F-27, is undergoing a maintenance check, the Office of the President said in a statement.

The other plane, the F-28, completed its maintenance check last May, according to a May 25 statement from the Philippine Air Force (PAF).

Last May 14, the plane made its maiden flight as "Kalayaan 1," the call sign usually given to an aircraft carrying the President, the statement said.

The OP later explained that the planned purchase was for the safety of President Arroyo, “who risks her life and limb by using chartered civilian aircraft in performing her duties."

The ad for the bidding came out in the same week that the President was criticized for a $20,000 dinner in New York and an earlier one in Washington D.C. costing $15,000. [See: Before NY, Arroyo dined in Washington for $15K]

The uproar came in the wake of the national mourning for the late former president Corazon Aquino, who was known for her simple lifestyle and personal modesty. Malacañang, for its part, denied that the dinners were lavish.

Last week, the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) also released a three-part report on Mrs. Arroyo’s Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) from 1991 to 2008, which showed that she got rich faster than her predecessors Corazon Aquino, Fidel Ramos, and Joseph Estrada. [See: Arroyo got rich faster than Aquino, Ramos, Estrada]

[See: 'Conflict of interest' seen in Arroyo stock investments and Gloria's mysterious millions and undeclared houses]

Lashing back at PCIJ for what they considered as “speculative" reports, Remonde and President Arroyo’s lawyer Romulo Macalintal said there was nothing irregular about Mrs. Arroyo’s SALNs and nothing unethical about her dabbling in the stock market. - GMANews.TV
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