The Department of Foreign Affairs is conducting a further inquiry into the US drone that was found floating off the coast of Masbate even as it ruled out any sovereignty issues arising from the incident.
Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario on Wednesday said that retired general Edilberto Adan, executive officer of the Presidential Commission on the Visiting Forces Agreement (PCVFA), is continuing an investigation into the drone recovery.
The United States Embassy in Manila has explained that the aerial target drone had been deployed from a US Navy destroyer in September last year as part of an all-US naval exercise and was brought to Philippine coastal waters by ocean currents where it was found by fishermen in Masbate last Sunday.
The drone, an unarmed aerial vehicle that the US Embassy said was different from that used for surveillance was found to have barnacles, indicating that it had been in the water for a long time.
“Since it did not fly over Philippine territory, I don’t think in that specific case there are any sovereignty issues,” said Del Rosario told a press briefing Wednesday.
“I understand the drone has not flown over Philippine territory and unarmed and used as an aerial target. That’s my knowledge to this moment,” the foreign secretary said.
The militant Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), which claims that the US uses drones for surveillance operations in the Philippines and has called on Congress to conduct an inquiry, said the DFA seemed to have accepted the US explanation at face value.
“The DFA merely accepted the statement of the US government without even conducting its own probe. The DFA also refuses to address the broader issue, which is the use of drones in Philippine airspace, and whether the US is abusing the VFA to gain unrestricted use of Philippine airspace,” said Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr.
Bayan earlier cited a New York Times report that revealed the US military’s use of drones to hunt down an Indonesian terror suspect in Mindanao in 2006. The US military maintains a contingent in southern Philippines to provide technical assistance to the Armed Forces.
Del Rosario pointed out that the DFA was continuing with its investigation.