Presidential yes-man — sorry, spokesman — Salvador Panelo did what he does best today, leaping to the defense of his boss, after the government drew criticism for its decision to buy a PHP2 billion (US$38.6 million) luxury jet for President Rodrigo Duterte.
The Gulfstream G280 was purchased from the United States government and will be delivered to the Philippines next year, Arsenio Andolong, director of the Department of National Defense’s Public Affairs Service, told ABS-CBN News. He described the jet as “similar to an airborne command post,” which will be used “in the event of a crisis situation.”
The procurement of the aircraft was approved by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana in November of last year.
However, the purchase of the jet didn’t sit well with Renato Reyes Jr., the secretary-general of activist group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (“New Patriotic Alliance”). In a tweet yesterday, Reyes suggested that the government was “spend[ing] millions of dollars for the comfort of officials, while ordinary folks carry the daily burden of the #TransportCrisis.”
Reyes was referring to the transport problems Filipino commuters have been dealing with following the partial shutdown of the LRT-2, which caught fire last week.
Asked for his reaction to Reyes’ tweet, Panelo said in English and Filipino, that the plane was “not for comfort.”
“Is that even comfortable?” he asked of the aircraft (which, to be fair, is at the lower end of Gulfstream’s line of multi-million dollar luxury jets). “You need that in times of crisis… If it’s a necessity, why would you think it’s an unnecessary purchase?
“The president is very frugal. He doesn’t spend unless necessary.”
According to a statement released by Gulfstream announcing the Philippines’ order, the G280 can fly eight hours non-stop (long enough, for instance, to make it from Dubai to Hong Kong), has a maximum range of 3,600 nautical miles (6,667 kilometers), and can cruise at Mach 0.8.
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