US embassy: Crashed drone unarmed, not for spying
MANILA (UPDATED) - A US drone believed to be used for reconnaissance was recovered on Monday in waters off the central Philippines, police and naval authorities said.
Fishermen found the 3.65 metre (12-foot) drone floating off Masbate island and dragged it to shore, said provincial police chief Senior Superintendent Heriberto Olitoquit.
|US drone found floating off Masbate island. Photo courtesy of Masbate Provincial Police
They had initially thought it was a bomb and alerted police about the unusual discovery, Olitoquit said.
"A technical evaluation determined that the object is one Unmanned Aerial Vehicle," Olitoquit told reporters.
Olitoquit said the drone had been turned over to the Philippine Navy, which would then conduct a thorough investigation of the drone.
"It appears to have been floating for quite some time," Captain Rommel Galang, deputy commander of naval forces in the area, told AFP.
"We will first study this drone but initially it appears to be a UAV used largely in reconnaissance."
He said it had inscriptions and a serial number that "indicate it is an American drone".
Galang said the US embassy had been informed of the discovery and local authorities would eventually turn it over to them.
The US embassy said Monday that the US Navy drone is neither armed nor is used for spying
"The recovered vehicle appears to be of the sort that is used as an air defense target in training exercises," US embassy spokesperson Tina Malone said in a press statement.
"This type of vehicle is not armed and not used for surveillance," she added.
Malone said they are still trying to confirm the exact type of the recovered drone "and to determine how and when it may have landed in the sea."
The drone, which looks like a BQM-74e Chukar III unmanned aircraft, will be brought to the Naval Forces Southern Luzon headquarters in Legaspi City.
Galang said they have no idea why the US drone was in Masbate's waters.
"Everything is just factual. We do not want to give any interpretation. Actually that's the same question we are asking," he said.
Navy spokesman Col. Omar Tonsay, meanwhile remained mum on the incident.
In an interview with AFP last year, President Benigno Aquino confirmed that the Philippines has been allowing US drones to overfly its territory for reconnaissance flights, but were not allowed to make strikes.
About 600 US forces have been rotating in the southern Philippines since 2002 as part of the US government's global war on terror.
However, the drone was found in Masbate, many hundreds of kilometres from the Muslim insurgency-racked areas where no US troops are known to operate.
Masbate is one of the areas where communists waging a decades-long rebellion have long operated.