MANILA — The US Embassy in Manila on Wednesday handed over a P710-million unmanned drone system to the Philippine Navy in a bid to ramp up the military’s maritime defense and border security capacity.
The ScanEagle Unmanned Aerial System aims to assist in providing intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance to the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) 71st maritime unmanned aerial reconnaissance squadron, its chief unit in intelligence operations, a statement from the embassy said.
AFP Deputy Chief of Staff Vice Admiral Erick Kagaoan welcomed the military equipment and said it would be used by the military in Palawan, which is close to the disputed West Philippine Sea.
“This new asset will complement the same kind being operated by the 300th Air Intelligence and Security Wing at the Antonio Bautista Air Base in Palawan, which is very close to the disputed areas in the West Philippine Sea that need our consistent attention,” said Kagaoan.
The drone system will also help the Philippine military in assessing areas that need prompt action in relation to territorial defense and security, according to Philippine Fleet Commander Rear Admiral Loumer Bernabe.
“Aside from its primary use for [intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance] the ScanEagle UAS will greatly aid our organization in the effective assessment of the subject areas, timely decision-making, and prompt action in the conduct of territorial defense, internal security operations, as well as humanitarian assistance and disaster response,” Bernabe said.
The move is part of US support for the AFP’s modernization plan, the US Embassy said, which includes "grant assistance and expedited sales of arms and munitions" for "urgent maritime security, counterterrorism and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief requirements."
Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana last week revealed that the AFP is also expecting some P869 million worth of military equipment from the US next month, describing these as "precision-guided munitions which can be dropped with pinpoint accuracy."
The transfer of defense and military equipment was discussed in a meeting he had with US Chargé d'Affaires John Law in early November in Camp Aguinaldo, he said.
Acting Deputy Chief of Mission Kimberly Kelly and representatives from the US Embassy in the Philippines’ Joint US Military Assistance Group handed over the ScanEagle Unmanned Aerial System to Vice Admiral Giovanni Carlo Bacordo, Philippine Navy’s Flag Officer in Command, at Naval Base Heracleo Alano in Sangley Point, Cavite.