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Japan to lease 5 surveillance aircraft to Philippines

Defense Undersecretary for Finance Raymundo de Vera Elefante said the deal to be signed today in Tokyo is for $7,000 per year for four TC-90 propeller light planes and the fighter TC-90 plane would be leased for $2,000 per year. BY-ND/Alec Hsu

MANILA, Philippines – The Japanese government is leasing five light surveillance airplanes to the Philippines to bolster the country’s maritime patrol operations.

Defense Undersecretary for Finance Raymundo de Vera Elefante said the deal to be signed today in Tokyo is for $7,000 per year for four TC-90 propeller light planes and the fighter TC-90 plane would be leased for $2,000 per year.

Elefante said the lease agreement is renewable every year.

“It’s almost for free. Training will also be free and it will help us (in) guarding our shores, from the air,” Elefante, who will sign the lease, said.

The TC-90s would come from the stock of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Forces.

He said the Beechcraft King Air planes could be used for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief and maritime security operations.

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Elefante said that they are looking at the possibility of using the airplanes for 20 years while the military is upgrading its equipment.

The TC-90s were offered by Japan shortly after the Agreement Concerning the Transfer of Defense Equipment and Technology was finalized last Feb. 29.

The TC-90’s patrol range is double that of small Philippine planes currently in service, which have a maximum range of only 300 kilometers.

Ken Jimbo, a senior research fellow of Japanese think tank Canon Institute for Global Studies Japan, said that Japanese officials could be intermediaries to encourage President Duterte to return to engaging the United States in diplomatic, economic and military relations to maintain the balance of power in the region.

“I hope that Japan can be a catalyst to connect the Philippine and US relationship back on the normal track because we believe that the United States still provides the fundamental role of the security guarantee of the Philippines and United States has been the last resort to provide favorable balance of power in East Asia,” Jimbo said.

On Duterte’s flip-flopping stance toward the US, Jimbo agreed with analysts that his statements have caused confusion around the world.

“At this moment we are somewhat confused and puzzled,” he said in an interview.

He said as Duterte tries to craft an independent foreign policy with a pivot towards China and Russia, this “should not be made at the expense of its relations with the United States.” 

He urged the government to work also on the principle of abiding with the rule of law, including the UN arbitration ruling on the South China Sea.

Frigate-building contract

The Department of National Defense also signed on Monday a P15.7-billion contract with South Korean Hyundai Heavy Industries for the building of two brand new missile-firing frigates for the Philippine Navy.

On behalf of the Philippine government, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana signed the contract with Hyundai executives at the Navy’s headquarters along Roxas Boulevard, Manila.

“The acquisition of the two brand new and modern frigates serves as a big step in realizing a dream of a world class and well-equipped Philippine Navy, capable and credible in protecting its people and the sovereignty of the land and the interest of its national territory,” said Navy spokesman Capt. Lued Lincuna.

The contract signals the start of construction and is the culmination of the long and tedious procurement process for the project, he said.

The Notice of Award was approved, issued and was duly conformed with by Hyundai on Sept. 13 with the amount of $336,912,000 or P15,744,571,584.

Currently, the Navy is mainly relying on two frigates, the BRP Gregorio del Pilar and BRP Ramon Alcaraz, for its long-range maritime patrols.

The two warships were decommissioned US Coast Guard cutters that were acquired by the Philippines from the US government.

Another decommissioned US Coast Guard cutter would be converted into a frigate and christened the BRP Andres Bonifacio that would be delivered to the Navy this December. 

The Navy is also expecting delivery of another Strategic Sealift Vessel from Indonesia.

The vessel is the sister-ship of BRP Tarlac now being operated by the Navy. – With Christina Mendez

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