US donates 2 patrol planes to PH
The Philippines received two brand new Cessna-208B Caravan intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft from the United States government on Thursday.
“This will fill the gap of what we lack by way of having an eye in the sky,” Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said during the turnover ceremony on Thursday at the Villamor Air Base.
The two patrol planes worth P1.67 billion ($33 million dollars), will be used for counterterrorism, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, maritime patrol and other ground and naval operations.
Lorenzana said it may also be used in the operations in Marawi City, where security forces are battling ISIS-linked Maute terrorist group since May 23.
“They will be used anywhere in the Philippines, including Marawi, Sulu Sea, West Philippine Sea, and Benham Rise,” he said.
He described the surveillance planes as “the most modern that we have now.”
“This is state-of-the-art, meaning with all equipment (in place) they will be able to operate 24 hours a day,” he added.
US Ambassador Sung Kim said the planes are equipped with modern and sophisticated cameras and receivers. The package also includes training, support and maintenance of the aircraft.
But more than the delivery of the planes, he said the transfer was “a symbol of strength and endurance” of the alliance of the two countries.
“These planes are latest but definitely not the last manifestation of what our alliance is supposed to be — a partnership of two old friends and allies who work together, fight together and overcome adversity together,” Kim said.
The aircraft will be later turned over to the 300th Air Intelligence and Security Group of the Philippine Air Force.
The transfer ceremony was also attended by Secretary of Foreign Affairs Alan Peter Cayetano, AFP chief of staff Gen. Eduardo Año, Deputy Commander of the Pacific Command Lt. Gen. Bryan Fenton, and other top military officials.
President Rodrigo Duterte, a vocal critic of the US, was supposed to drop by at the ceremony while it was not on his official schedule, but was in a hurry to fly to Dumaguete to visit the wounded policemen from last week’s ambush by the New People’s Army, Lorenzana explained early in his speech.
Cayetano later told reporters that the President values the relationship of the two countries and that “disagreements should not define the overall relationship of the two countries.”
“Despite philosophical, ideological, historical disagreements with the US, the President values the relation with the US. In the past donation, he thanked the US. The exercises with American counterparts continued. The VFA (Visiting Forces Agreement), EDCA (Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement) is in action and operational,” the DFA secretary said.
“You have to look at it as in the context of the Philippines finding its national identity and defining interest. There are points of argument and there is the bigger relationship. Wala tayong problema sa lahat ng bansa pagdating sa bigger relationship (We don’t have any problems with the rest of the world when it comes to bigger relationship),” he added. JPV
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