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Duterte to sell presidential yacht; order choppers be used as air ambulances

DAVAO CITY — Presumptive president Rodrigo Duterte on Sunday said he will put presidential yacht, the BRP Ang Pangulo, up for sale to the highest bidder.

Duterte said this in an interview with reporters at Hotel Elena after meeting with prospective chiefs of the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Moreover, Duterte said he wants all aircraft assigned to the Presidential Airlift Wing to be converted as "air ambulances".

Historic ship

The Japan-built BRP Ang Pangulo was acquired by the Philippine government in 1959 as part of Japan's war reparations to the country. The yacht was first used by President Carlos P. Garcia.

The ship was initially christened RPS Lapu-Lapu and served as the flagship of the Philippine Navy until December 1961.

In 1962, President Diosdado Macapagal ordered the ship's conversion into a troop transport and renamed the ship after President Manuel Roxas. The re-christening ceremony was officiated by Trinidad Roxas, the late president's widow.

Roxas is the grandfather and namesake of Manuel "Mar" Roxas III who is trailing Duterte in the partial and unofficial count made by the elections' citizen arm, PPCRV.

The vessel was later renamed RPS The President. President Ferdinand Marcos renamed the vessel as BRP Ang Pangulo and restored its use as the presidential yacht.

On its 50th commissioning anniversary in 2009, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo renamed the ship as BRP Pagasa.

The ship's name reverted to BRP Ang Pangulo in 2011.

A "home" video found in Malacañang immediately after the Marcoses fled in February 1986 showed the late dictator, his wife Imelda and children Bongbong and Irene hosting a New Year's eve party on board the yacht.

Bongbong was among those who ran for vice president in this year's elections and is trailing front runner Leni Robredo in the latest count.

Presidential aircraft

The air force's 250th Presidential Airlift Wing or the Bluebirds provides air mobility to the President as well as the first family, visiting dignitaries and VIPs.

According to among the aircraft assigned to the unit include the air force's only Fokker F-28 aircraft, as well as an undetermined number of Fokker F-27 Friendships, S-70 Blackhawks, S-76s, SA-330 Pumas, and Bell 412s.

The use of presidential helicopters during the campaign came under fire when pictures showing Kris Aquino -- the President's sister -- and her aides disembarking from one of the Bell 412 helicopters went viral.

Netizens criticized the President for having several helicopters at his beck and call while no helicopter was purportedly available to evacuate wounded soldiers.

The government recently acquired eight Bell 412 combat utility helicopters, of which three were configured as VIP transports for use by the Presidential Airlift Wing. — APG, GMA News