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US turns over 2 new aircraft to Philippines

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US turns over 2 new aircraft to Philippines

A military chaplain blesses two new Cessna 208B Caravan aircrafts which were turned over by the U.S. military to the Philippine Air Force at the headquarters in Villamor Air Base, in Pasay City, southeast of Manila, Philippine, Thursday, July 27, 2017. The two surveillance aircrafts, worth $30 million, were turned over to the Philippine Air Force Thursday to increase its maritime security. Witnessing the blessing are from right, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim, Philippine Defense Chief Delfin Lorenzana and Armed Forces Chief Gen. Eduardo Ano. AP/Bullit Marquez

MANILA, Philippines — The United States on Thursday officially turned over two new aircraft to the Philippine Air Force (PAF) as part of the US National Defense Authorization Act Building Partnership Capacity Program.

US Ambassador Sung Kim and Pacific Command Deputy Commander Lt. Gen. Bryan Fenton presented the two new Cessna 208B aircraft to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana during a transfer ceremony at Villamor Air Base.

Armed Forces of the Philippines chief Gen. Eduardo Año, PAF Commanding General Lt. Gen. Edgar Fallorina and representatives from the US Embassy were also present in the ceremony.

US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim pours champagne on the brand new Cessna 208B Caravan aircraft during turnover rites at the Air Force headquarters in Villamor Air Base in Pasay City southeast of Manila, Philippines Thursday, July 27, 2017. Two brand new surveillance aircraft, worth $30 million, were turned over to the Philippine Air Force to increase its maritime security. AP/Bullit Marquez
Philippine Defense Chief Delfin Lorenzana, right, and U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim, flash the thumbs up sign from the cockpit of the brand new Cessna 208B Caravan aircraft during turnover rites at the Air Force headquarters in Villamor Air Base in Pasay City southeast of Manila, Philippines Thursday, July 27, 2017. The two brand new surveillance aircrafts, worth $30 million, were turned over to the Philippine Air Force to increase its maritime security. AP/Bullit Marquez

The two new aircraft, worth P1.67 billion, will enhance the counterterrorism capabilities of the PAF and will help protect AFP personnel engaged on operations in Mindanao, particularly in Marawi City.

The Cessna aircraft will enhance the ability of the AFP to locate terrorist groups operating in Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago with its advanced sensors, cameras and communications equipment.

The 300th Air Intelligence and Security Group of the PAF, based at Edwin Andrews Air Base in Zamboanga, will operate the two new surveillance aircraft.

For the past five years, Washington has allocated more than P15 billion of grant funding to provide up-to-date equipment and training to the AFP.

"The equipment transfers, training, and continued bilateral exercises demonstrate the commitment of the United States to work with the Philippines in building capabilities towards eradicating global terror networks," the US Embassy said.

The Joint US Military Assistance Group in the Philippines have delivered more than P7.4 billion worth of equipment to the AFP since 2007.

The AFP has also procured small-arms weapons, maritime assault boats, vehicles, unmanned aerial systems and personal protective equipment from the US government.

"The United States, as a steadfast ally of the Philippines, continues to provide support to the AFP through both grant assistance and expedited sales of arms and munitions to support both long-term AFP modernization goals and urgent counterterrorism requirements," the US Embassy said in a press release. — Patricia Lourdes Viray

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