By Arjay L. Balinbin, Reporter
MALACAÑANG on Sunday defended the second landing this month of a Chinese aircraft in President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s hometown of Davao City, saying the stop was only for “refueling.”
“Same as first. Refueling stop. All licenses, permits and protocols (were) issued and observed,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry L. Roque, Jr. said in a text message to Palace reporters on Sunday morning, June 24.
The Chinese aircraft landed at Francisco Bangoy International Airport last Saturday, June 23, at 12:18 p.m. and left at 12:59 p.m., ABS-CBN News reported.
But it remains unclear if last Saturday’s landing was by the same military transport plane IL-76, which landed in Davao City on June 8.
For his part, opposition Magdalo Party-list Rep. Gary C. Alejano said in a social media post, “We have no formal military agreements with China which makes landings like that.”
He added, “[It is] unusual especially if high defense officials were not aware. On one hand, we have an existing visiting forces agreement with Australia & the US.”
Ano kaya ang binabalik-balik nito sa Davao? (Why does the aircraft keep coming back to Davao City?),” the lawmaker also said.
In a media interview on Saturday evening, Special Assistant to the President (SAP) Christopher Lawrence “Bong” T. Go said, “Itong Chinese aircraft, I think pangalawa na ito na nag-refuel po sa Davao (I think this is the second aircraft to stop for refueling in Davao City). Pero itong (But this) request na ‘to was received, processed, cleared by relevant Philippine agencies.”
“The landing was requested for a specific refueling, and it was granted and given with specific conditions, with compliance of the requested party,” he said.
Mr. Go also said “foreign government and commercial planes” that land in the Philippines “for refueling purposes” have to follow “domestic procedures and in consideration of existing agreements.”
“The same courtesy is tended to Philippine aircrafts when technical stuff need to be undertaken,” he added.
As for Mr. Alejano’s statement, Mr. Go said: “Congressman Alejano, Navy ka naman, e di tanungin mo rin ang mga kaibigan mo sa Navy at sa Armed Forces. Hindi naman magsisinungaling yung mga Armed Forces sa iyo kasi dati mo rin silang kasamahan, so better ask them.” (Congressman Alejano, you [used to be part of the] Navy. Ask your friends in the Navy and the Armed Forces. They will not lie to you because you were part of them, so better ask them.)