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MANILA (Reuters) - The Philippines is buying 32 S-70i Black Hawk helicopters from Poland-based Sikorsky Aircraft subsidiary PZL Mielec to beef up its existing fleet of 12, the country's defence chief said on Sunday, as it seeks to boost its disaster response capabilities.
Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said a notice of award was issued on Dec. 28 for the purchase of brand new helicopters under a project that comes with logistics support and a training package for pilots and maintenance crew at a cost of 32 billion pesos ($624 million).
The contract was now being drafted, with the delivery of the first five units expected in 2023, Lorenzana said on Facebook. The remaining ones will be delivered in three batches, 10 units in 2024, 10 units in 2025, and 7 units in 2026, he said.
"The lack of transport planes and helicopters have never been more acute during the pandemic and in the aftermath of Typhoon (Rai)," Lorenzana said.
"This was exacerbated by our aging Hueys that have become uneconomical to maintain."
Rai, last year's 15th and deadliest typhoon to hit the Philippines, left more than 400 people dead and caused widespread damage in central and southern regions of the country in December.
The United Nations' Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs on Sunday said in a statement that hundreds of thousands of people still needed food and clean water, shelter and protection support, one month after the world's second deadliest disaster of 2021 hit the Philippines.
(Reporting by Enrico Dela Cruz; Editing by Tom Hogue)