Philippines to conduct air patrols in Benham

Michael Punongbayan - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) will use its newly acquired TC-90 aircraft from Japan to patrol the West Philippine Sea and Benham Rise where incidents of China’s incursion were recorded.

The Philippine Navy officially received the first two of five TC-90 patrol planes from the government of Japan yesterday.

Japan has agreed to lease five patrol planes to the Philippines at minimal cost. The delivery of the other three planes is expected in 2018.

“We can use that anywhere, any part of the country where these are needed,” AFP chief Gen. Eduardo Año told reporters during the turnover ceremony of the two patrol planes in Sangley Point, Cavite yesterday morning.

Asked if the West Philippine Sea and Benham Rise are among the areas that will be patrolled, Año said “yes.”

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Japanese State Minister for Defense Kenji Wakamiya led the turnover ceremony at the Naval Air Group headquarters in Sangley Point.

Japan has temporarily leased TC-90 patrol aircraft to the Philippines under several agreements in 2015 and 2016 pending another agreement that will allow Japan to donate the aircraft.

Lorenzana said these agreements are the memorandum on defense cooperation and exchange that the Philippines entered with Japan in 2015; the agreement concerning the transfer of defense equipment and technology entered in 2016; and the memorandum of implementation for the transfer of Japan’s TC-90 aircraft to the Philippines.

“These newly acquired planes are expected to enhance our country’s capacity in maritime security as well as provide the Philippine Navy the needed air asset for their missions concerning humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, transportation and maritime domain awareness, including maritime air surveillance and intelligence surveillance reconnaissance in support of maritime security operations and training for these missions,” he said.

“Likewise, these TC-90s will also enhance cooperative relationship, promoting mutual understanding and trust as well as contributing to peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region,” he added.

The acquisition of the aircraft forms part of the AFP Modernization Program, which aims to synchronize improvements in materiel and technology capabilities of the military.

Lorenzana said the government is looking into the acquisition of more equipment for the country’s external defense missions, including the possible acquisition of UH-1H helicopter spare parts for the Philippine Air Force.

“I am grateful that we are indeed getting all the support of our neighbors in Asia, such as Japan. And as we acquire more equipment, we shall also enhance the capabilities of our troops, making them ready for all kinds of operations. Together with the other members of the one defense team, let us continue transforming together for the attainment of a credible defense posture,” he said.

The Japanese government also expressed hope of building a stronger relationship with the Philippines in the area of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations as well as in the aspect of military and defense cooperation.

“Japan is dependent on the supply of resources and energy and all of which comes through maritime transport and therefore stronger relationship with the Philippines is important as the country is located in the important point of such sea lanes,” Wakamiya said in a joint press conference with Lorenzana.

“So in this regard, the Ministry of Defense of Japan and the Japan self defense force play a very important role in building defense cooperation with the Philippines in those areas,” he added.

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