PH Navy awaits leased surveillance planes from Japan
MANILA, Philippines – Japan is scheduled to transfer two TC-90 maritime patrol aircraft to the Philippine Navy next month, as part of a lease arrangement made by the previous administration that is expected to draw renewed protests from China.
Philippine Navy chief Vice Admiral Ronald Joseph Mercado said the surveillance planes are arriving on March 27, the first batch out of the 5 planes that will arrive this year.
They will boost the capability of the ill-equipped navy to conduct maritime aerial reconnaissance.
The navy has been using its old Islanders to patrol and deliver supplies to military outposts in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea). Rappler learned that the navy is planning to retire them with the arrival of the TC-90s.
The lease arrangement between Japan and the Philippines was formalized in May 2016, reportedly among Tokyo's first leases of its Self-Defense Forces' aircraft to another country after it lifted a self-imposed ban on weapons exports.
The deal was immediately met with protests from China, which claims almost all of the South China Sea. The Asian military supepower is ignoring an international ruling dismissing its 9-dash line claim over the disputed waters.
The TC-90s are arriving against the backdrop of the new Duterte administration seeking warmer ties with China, shelving the territorial dispute to focus on economic ties.
Navy spokesman Captain Lued Lincuna said the TC-90s are also crucial in boosting the navy's capabilities for humanitarian and disaster response.
"If calamity strikes, for example, they can be deployed for rapid assessment of affected areas. It is also capable of lifting limited cargoes and personnel. For maritime, they can be deployed for surveillance and reconnaissance," Lincuna said.
The arrival of the TC-90s was announced during a fellowship dinner with the media on Wednesday, February 22, aboard the country's recently acquired warship BRP Andres Bonifacio. – Rappler.com