Malacañang has welcomed the donation of two surveillance planes by the United States to the Philippines, saying it reaffirmed the “strong military alliance” between the two countries.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) received two brand new Cessna–208B Grand Caravan aircraft from the US, which are expected to aid the Philippine government’s counter-terrorism efforts, internal security operations, law enforcement, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations.
“The donation of the United States reaffirms the strong military alliance between the Philippines and the United States which remains robust to this day,” Palace spokesman Ernesto Abella said in a statement.
“These aircraft would bolster the capability and readiness of our Air Force to help address terrorism and support our intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance operations,” he added.
The donation of surveillance planes came as government troops continued battling Islamic State-inspired terrorists in Marawi City.
US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim, during the turnover ceremony at the Villamor Airbase on Thursday, said the US wanted to “help Marawi residents get their city back and start their lives over in a safe and stable environment.”
The US provided technical assistance to the AFP to help in the offensives.
“We really want to help AFP as much as we can, as they go through the very difficult situation in Marawi, as they also continue to strive to develop the military in the long term,” Kim said.
P15B in last 5 yrs
The US Embassy in Manila said the two new aircraft, valued at P1.67 billion, were delivered to Philippine Air Force chief Lt. Gen. Edgar Fallorina, through the US National Defense Authorization Act Building Partnership Capacity Program.
“This delivery is the latest donation from the United States government, which over the last five years has allocated more than P15 billion of grant funding to provide the AFP with up-to-date equipment and training. The equipment transfers, training, and continued bilateral exercises demonstrate the commitment of the United States to work with the Philippines in building capabilities towards eradicating global terror networks,” the embassy said.
The embassy noted that since 2007, representatives from the Joint United States Military Assistance Group or Jusmag in the Philippines have delivered and programmed more than P7.4 billion worth of military equipment to the AFP to enhance counter-terrorism capabilities.
“In addition, the AFP has procured small-arms weapons, maritime assault boats, vehicles, unmanned aerial systems, and personal protective equipment as part of the US government’s security assistance programs,” it said.
The planes will be operated by the Air Force’s 300th Air Intelligence and Security Group at Edwin Andrews Air Base in Zamboanga City. The unit leads air intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance operations for the AFP.
“The United States, as a steadfast ally of the Philippines, continues to provide support to the AFP through both grant assistance and expedited sales of arms and munitions to support both long-term AFP modernization goals and urgent counter-terrorism requirements,” the embassy said.