MANILA, Philippines—The United States’ (US) use of unmanned aerial vehicles or “drones” in the Philippines violates national sovereignty, a militant group said Tuesday.
“The unrestricted use of US drones in Philippine airspace is a violation of our national sovereignty,” Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) Secretary General Renato Reyes Jr. said in a statement.
“No sovereign nation would allow a foreign power unhampered use of domestic airspace. Do you think the US will allow the Philippines the same privilege in US airspace?” Reyes said.
An unmanned aerial vehicle, reportedly used as an aerial target drone, fell into the waters off Ticao Island, Masbate Monday and was later recovered by fishermen in the area.
The drone was identified as a BQM-74E Chukar III that is four meters long and has a wingspan of 1.76 meters. The particular type of drone was reportedly used for military target training.
Other drones used by the US military are capable of surveillance while others are capable of attack, using weapons. Drones have been used extensively in the previous US military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“Whether it is an aerial target drone, a surveillance drone or an attack drone, there are no clear guidelines on the use of these unmanned aerial vehicles in PH territory. It appears that the US government has been using the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) to gain unrestricted movement in PH airspace,” Reyes said.
Citing Article 8, Section 3 of the VFA: “aircraft operated by or for the United States armed forces shall observe local air traffic control regulations while in the Philippines,” Reyes urged the Senate to probe the US military’s use of drones saying the particular section “does not seem to hold true for US drones.”
“The problem with US drones is that they can be used for surveillance and they can be used for actual combat operations,” Reyes said.
“We have a situation where a foreign power can fly anytime and anywhere it wants, undertake surveillance, and on occasion, even participate in actual combat operations. Drones underscore US direct involvement in internal conflict in the Philippines,” he said.
Reyes called on the US to explain if they were conducting live-fire exercises in the area and whether the use of drones had approval from the Philippine government.