US deploys another spy plane to Marawi
The United States has deployed another surveillance plane to help Philippine troops who are still fighting well-entrenched pro-Islamic State rebels in Marawi City for more than three months now.
The US Embassy in Manila said the Gray Eagle Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) was recently deployed to Mindanao to support the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ counterterrorism efforts.
“Compared to current surveillance platforms used in the region, the Gray Eagle has a longer flight duration which will enable a larger area of reconnaissance and surveillance,” the Embassy said in a statement Monday.
The US government recently turned over a Raven tactical UAS and two Cessna-208B surveillance aircraft, as well as various munitions and weapons to support the counterterrorism operations.
“Over the past three years, the US has provided the Philippines with assistance valued at over P15 billion to establish better command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities for the AFP,” the US Embassy said.
A few weeks after the military started operations against ISIS-allied rebels who occupied Marawi City on May 23, the Americans lent a P3 Orion surveillance plane as ground troops suffered numerous casualties from snipers hiding in buildings.
Philippine security officials said US servicemen provided technical assistance but did not join fighting on the ground.
Aside from the military assistance, the US government also committed P730 million ($14.3 million) for emergency relief and recovery assistance for residents displaced by the conflict.
In the past two years, the US gave over $50 million worth of equipment to the National Coast Watch Center to beef up its capability to protect the country’s ports and coastline.
Philippine Coast Guard officer-in-charge Commodore Joel Garcia said this aid came in the form of communications and surveillance equipment, facilities, WMD detection equipment and training.
“It’s not just the equipment but the facilities of the NCWC, regional coordinating centers in Cebu and Palawan, training centers in Palawan and sub-centers in Antique and Surigao. These are all support coming from the US government,” Garcia said.
The aid, which seeks to boost the country’s capabilities in patrolling and securing its ports and coastlines, comes from the US Defense Threat Reduction Agency. —With a report from Julie M. Aurelio
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