Japan has donated spare parts of UH-1H "Huey" combat utility helicopters to the Philippine Air Force (PAF).
According to the Department of National Defense on Tuesday, they have received the first batch of UH-1H spare parts and maintenance worth about P2.5 billion from the Japan Ministry of Defense for the PAF to use on its existing fleet of Hueys.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Toshihiko Fujii, Assistant Commissioner of the Japan's Acquisition Technology and Logistics Agency, led the ceremonial turnover ceremony held in Clark Air Base in Pampanga.
During the ceremony, Air Force chief Lieutenant General Rozzano Briguez said the parts will be of great help to the PAF's combat utility fleet, especially with the impending national elections, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR), support to national development, and the security requirements in the area of internal security and combating terrorism.
"With the initial spare parts given us, we will be able to immediately recover two UH-1 and the remaining spare parts that will be delivered this year, a maximum of five weeks, one will be placed on full mission capable status," Briguez said in a statement.
Fujii, on the other hand, emphasized that Japan is one with the Philippines in securing prosperity, peace and stability in the region.
"The Philippines (is) an important ally for Japan. So any formal cooperation, deepening cooperation with your country is a priority for us," the Japanese official told reporters.
"This might be a small step, but still, important. So we are hoping the continuation and accumulation of cooperation of our two countries can be a big, eventually, player contributor to the stabilization and peace in this region," he added.
According to Lorenzana, they are expecting another batch of spare parts and equipment by April.
"Meron silang excess, so they thought it wise to give it to us dahil marami tayong nakatengga diyan na hindi makalipad dahil walang spare parts, and we’re very much appreciative that they are giving this worth (5 billion Japanese yen) na spares. Una pa lang ito, meron pang darating barko na, we will send a ship to bring them here," he told reporters.
When asked when these would be expected, he said: "April yata. Next month."
Lorenzana also clarified that the agreement had nothing to do with recent Chinese activity in the West Philippine Sea.
"Even before this problem with China in the West Philippine Sea cropped up, we were already having a lot of interaction with the Japanese starting in the 1960s pa," he said. — Margaret Claire Layug/RSJ, GMA News