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Archive for April 8th, 2009

Sabotage ruled out in missing chopper

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By Joel Guinto
First Posted 13:17:00 04/08/2009

MANILA, Philippines – Authorities have ruled out sabotage in the case of a presidential helicopter that has gone missing in the north, saying it was “very remote” given tight security.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was not scheduled to board the Bell 412 since it was only a back-up aircraft.

Five Malacañang staff were on board the helicopter – press undersecretary Jose Capadocia, appointments secretary Marilou Frostrom, director Perlita Bandayanon from the Presidential Management Staff, Senior Military Aide to the President Brigadier General Carlos Clet, Clet’s aide Petty Officer 1 Demy Reyno.

Major Rolando Sacatani was the pilot with Captain Alvin Alegata as co-pilot.

“Definitely, we have ruled out that angle,” Philippine Air Force (PAF) Chief Lieutenant General Oscar Rabena told a news conference at the Palace, when asked if investigators were eyeing sabotage.

Asked why sabotage was being ruled out, Rabena said: “Because the presidential helicopters are well secured. They have guards in place, and it is very remote that a saboteur was able to come near the choppers.”

Rabena said the PAF had “no idea” yet on why the Bell 412 went missing. Reports said the aircraft encountered bad weather after it took off from the Loakan Airport in Baguio City, near the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) at around 4:20 p.m. Tuesday.

The group was set to conduct an ocular inspection of the Halzema Highway in Banaue town, Ifugao province ahead of Arroyo’s visit there, which was eventually cancelled.

The President is staying at her vacation house in Baguio City, monitoring the search and rescue operations, Press Secretary Cerge Remonde said.

As standard operating procedure, Rabena said all Bell 412 helicopters in the PAF’s inventory have been grounded, and the President would use other aircraft in the meantime.

Meanwhile, a mass was held at noon Wednesday at the Palace briefing room, across Capadocia’s office to pray for the group’s safety.

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Written by joelguinto

Wed+00:002009-04-08T08:52:37+00:00+00:0004b+00:00Wed, 08 Apr 2009 08:52:37 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am04

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US helps in search for presidential chopper

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Two cargo choppers dispatched

By Joel Guinto
First Posted 12:39:00 04/08/2009

MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATE) The United States has dispatched two cargo helicopters to help in search and rescue operations for a presidential helicopter that went missing in the north Tuesday, the chief of the Philippine Air Force (PAF) said.

The helicopters, which were identified as CH-46 Sea Knight, are expected to arrive at the Loakan Airport in Baguio City Wednesday noon from Zamboanga City, where US troops are preparing for annual joint exercises with Filipino troops, PAF Chief Lieutenant General Oscar Rabena told a news conference in Malacañang Wednesday.

Rabena said the PAF also dispatched five helicopters, including Vietnam War era UH-1H or Hueys to look for the Bell 412 presidential chopper that was carrying two pilots and five Palace staff, including press undersecretary Jose Capadocia, appointments secretary Marilou Frostrom, the President’s senior military aide Brigadier General Carlos Clet.

The Bell 412 was declared missing late Tuesday evening after it failed to land in Ifugao province after it took off from the Loakan Airport at 4:20 p.m.

Also on Tuesday, a PAF Fokker F-27 was dispatched to track down an emergency signal that was believed to have come from the Bell 412, but there have been no sighting so far of the missing aircraft, said Major General Jovito Gamad, PAF chief of staff.

The missing Bell 412 chopper is equipped with a global positioning system, navigational and weather instruments, an onboard radar, and an emergency locator transmitter, Lieutenant Colonel Ernesto Torres, Jr. said, adding that it is rated for day and night instrument flight rating.

The chopper was purchased brand new and was delivered in 1996, and its latest Certificate of Airworthiness was issued on February 10 and set to expire Feb. 10, 2010, Torres said.

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Written by joelguinto

Wed+00:002009-04-08T08:50:18+00:00+00:0004b+00:00Wed, 08 Apr 2009 08:50:18 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am04

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