Partylist reps call for Senate probe on US drone
MANILA, Philippines - Leftist lawmakers on Tuesday, January 8, asked for an independent probe on the US drone incident, suggesting the American military may have violated the territorial sovereignty of the Philippines.
After the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) confirmed the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) did not crash into the sea as initially reported, the US Embassy in Manila said the device was actually launched on September 19, 2012 from Guam and was dragged by the current until it washed up on Sunday, January 6.
Philippine military spokesman Col Arnulfo Burgos told Rappler that the drone but veered off course before crashing into the water somewhere in the Pacific Ocean.
Burgos explained that this particular UAV is not a modern spy drone but an older model drone normally employed in training drills by the US Navy.
The AFP was not informed that the device would venture into Philippine airspace as that was not the planned trajectory of the drone.
'Infringement' of territorial sovereignty?
Bayan Muna Rep Teddy Casiño explained in a statement that a probe was necessary because "many questions need to be answered" about a "potential infringement on our territorial sovereignty."
"The US as well as Philippine governments have a lot of explaining to do,” he said.
Casiño asked both governments to answer the following questions:
- What was the drone doing in that area, and what was its mission?
- Was the Philippine government aware of its presence and operation?
- Who gave the clearances for such an operation?
- What was the legal basis if indeed clearance was given?
- If no clearance was obtained, will the Philippine government file a protest?
The drone was launched during the Valiant Shield 2012 war games from the flight deck of the USS Chafee missile destroyer to provide a "realistic missile threat" and then targeted, intercepted and engaged by a section of F/A-18 fighter jets, according to the US Navy.
'Illegal' for other countries do deploy weapons in PH
In another statement, fellow Bayan Muna Rep Neri Colmenares reminded Filipinos that "under our laws it is illegal for foreigners and other countries to deploy military weapons such as drones in our territory as it violates our territorial integrity and sovereignty."
"Countries like China, Vietnam or even the US cannot just deploy spy planes without our knowledge and absent a law or valid order allowing it, Colmenares added.
The partylist congressman urged Congress to determine who is "criminally liable" for deploying a device which can also be used "for surveilling mineral resources like oil, gold and other rich resources for the unfair advantage of US businesses."
"The Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) must be scrapped as this is used by the US as cover for impinging on our territory and sovereignty for their self serving economic and military interest," Colmenares said.
Could PH do same to US?
Also on Tuesday, activist group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) asked the Senate to look into the incident and questioned the US military’s use of drones in the Philippines.
“The unrestricted use of US drones in PH airspace is a violation of our national sovereignty. No sovereign nation would allow a foreign power unhampered use of domestic airspace. Do you think the US will allow the Philippines the same privilege in US airspace?” Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. said in a statement.
The US has been training the Philippine military to use these drones against Muslim rebels in Mindanao, according to various US and Philippine officials.
In an interview with AFP last year, President Benigno Aquino III confirmed that the Philippines has been allowing US drones to overfly its territory for reconnaissance flights, but were not allowed to make strikes.
Rappler reported in March that US smart bombs delivered by a different model Scan Eagle UAV were used for the first time on Philippine territory in a February 2 attack on Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiyah terrorists.
The raid was the result of 15 months of training and technology transfer from the United States to Filipino forces under a new aid program for counterterrorism efforts approved in 2010. - Rappler.com