U.S. gives two surveillance planes to PH

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 28) — The U.S. government turned over on July 27 two surveillance planes to the Philippine Air Force (PAF) as part of efforts to boost our country's defense capability.

These brand-new Cessna 208B planes will play a significant role in our military's maritime defense, as well as in its campaign against lawless and terrorist groups.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the planes can be used anywhere in the Philippines.

"The range is malayo naman (It has a long range), including Marawi, Sulu Sea, including West Philippine Sea, including Benham Rise," Lorenzana said.

These aircraft, the first of its kind in the Armed Forces, will mainly gather vital intelligence data by air through surveillance and reconnaissance in specific targets.

"Our 300th air intelligence security group has always raised their concern about the lack of aircraft and equipment for their air surveillance," PAF Chief Lt. Gen. Edgar Fallorina said.

The planes, which cost roughly $33 million (around ₱1.67 billion), are being handed over to the country through a grant from the U.S. government.

"They are symbol of strength and enduring nature of our alliance. These planes are the latest, most definitely the last manifestations of what our alliances supposed to be," U.S. Ambassador Sung Kim said.

"Our commitment to the Philippines doesn't stop with the delivery of these planes. We will work with the PAF to provide training advice support and maintenance so that PAF will get the best possible performance from these two aircraft," the U.S. Ambassador added.

The grant was facilitated by former presidents of the two countries: Benigno Aquino III and Barack Obama.

The surveillance planes arrived here last July 23 from Kansas.

Once the equipment, such as sonars, are installed and trainings of its pilot and crew are completed, these will be ready for deployment.

These brand new air assets will be based in Lipa, Batangas and Zamboanga City.

Initially, officials of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) say the new surveillance planes will be deployed over the South China Sea.

Top defense officials led by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana witnessed the turnover from U.S. Ambassador Sung Kim.

The U.S. ambassador says the planes, among many things, symbolize the strong, long-standing alliance with the Philippines, in addressing common interests, such as regional security.