MANILA -- (2ND UPDATE) A Chinese military plane landed recently in the Philippines to refuel with Manila's permission, the government confirmed Sunday.
Photos of the military plane supposedly landing last week at the Davao City International Airport circulated Saturday on social media.
The plane's request to land was "received, processed and cleared" by Philippine government agencies, said President Rodrigo Duterte's special assistant, Christopher "Bong" Go.
"The landing was requested for the specific purpose of refueling and was granted and given with specific conditions for compliance by the requesting party," he said in a statement.
Relevant government agencies "closely coordinated" for the aircraft’s refueling, which followed established procedures, added Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque in a separate statement.
None of the Australia-bound plane's passengers stepped out of the airport terminal, he added.
The Philippines is extended the same courtesy by other states when it needs to make technical stops, Roque noted.
The military, meanwhile, said it had no other information about the plane except that it was here for refurbishment.
"Wala akong sufficient info about it except that the landing was for refurbishment i.e. for refuelling purposes," military spokesman Col. Edgard Arevalo said in a text message to ABS-CBN News.
"That being the case, it’s perfectly a legal reason to land in our airports -- with appropriate permissions of course from appropriate government agencies," he added.
The military's apparent lack of knowledge about the plane is "disturbing" because Beijing has a record for spying on host countries and is locked in a territorial dispute with Manila over the South China Sea, said historian and defense analyst Jose Antonio Custodio.
Custodio, citing military sources, said the Chinese plane was in the Philippines for several days, much longer than the time it would have needed to refuel.
The government, he told ANC, should tweak its protocol to ensure that the military is not caught off guard by such incidents.
The Chinese plane that landed in the country was identified as an IL-76 in the social media photos attributed to the Philippine Plane Spotters Group.
The Il-76 cannot fly more than 3,000 kilometers without refueling if carrying a full load. Originally designed for moving heavy machinery to remote parts of the Soviet Union, the airplane is big enough to fit a school bus or 2 shipping containers inside it, according to passenger and cargo flight operator Antarctic Logistics & Expeditions. -- With a report from Reuters