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US drone found by fishermen spooks Cagayan folk

/ 12:12 AM January 27, 2015
POLICEMEN in Santa Ana town in Cagayan province secure the wreckage of an aerial target drone said to be owned by the United States military.   PHOTO COURTESY OF SANTA ANA POLICE

POLICEMEN in Santa Ana town in Cagayan province secure the wreckage of an aerial target drone said to be owned by the United States military. PHOTO COURTESY OF SANTA ANA POLICE

TUGUEGARAO CITY—Officials and residents in the coastal town of Santa Ana in Cagayan province, have raised concern over their security and privacy following the recovery of the wreckage of an unmanned aerial drone there last week.

Village officials were wary that their community has become a target of surveillance and monitoring operations by foreign countries due to the influx of Chinese visitors frequenting casino complexes there.

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“It is not a pleasant feeling thinking that somebody could be watching our every move,” said a town official, who asked not to be named for security reasons.

An aerial target drone, believed to be owned by the United States military, was found by fishermen about a kilometer from the coastline of Sition Nangaramoan in Barangay (village) San Vicente on Jan. 21.

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A report from the Santa Ana police said the orange-colored drone is a BQM-74F Aerial Target, with serial number BQ56026, and is 3.5 meters long.

Sought for comment on Sunday, US Embassy spokesperson Kurt Hoyer said the drone found in Santa Ana “appears to be the same type used [by the US military in the] exercises off of Guam last September.”

He cited the statement earlier issued by the US Embassy in Manila which clarified speculations that the drones being fished out of Philippine waters were for combat or espionage.

“The aerial target does not carry weapons and is not used for surveillance. The BQM-74E Aerial Target is used by surface ships and aircraft during exercises to help train our sailors in a realistic environment that provides the best possible training,” the US Embassy said in that statement, referring to a drone found earlier this month in Quezon province.

It said all aerial operations in the exercise “were conducted in international airspace or with appropriate coordination and approval in Guam airspace.”

Asked if the US government would retrieve the drone here, Hoyer, in a text message, said: “We usually do get them from the [Armed Forces of the Philippines].”

He, however, declined to answer questions on whether the wreckage contained data that may interest other groups.

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The discovery sparked fear among Santa Ana residents, following initial reports that the drone was the wreckage of a supposed “spy plane.”

Senior Insp. Darwin Urani, Santa Ana police chief, said policemen retrieved the drone from fishermen.

“They wanted to keep it but we had to explain to them that since it is a high-tech electronic device, mishandling [it] could harm anyone. Besides, it is presumably owned by the US government, so we have to return it,” he said. Melvin Gascon, Inquirer Northern Luzon

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