Probe use of US drones in anti-insurgency campaign

ANAKPAWIS Rep. Rafael V. Mariano today said a probe is in order to determine the circumstances of the crashing of an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) or drone in Sitio Tacdugan, Bgy. Bagahanglad, San Jacinto, Ticao Island in Masbate last January 6.

According to several fishermen that discovered the unmanned drone measuring 12 feet with a width of 3.94 meters and bears the sign “AERIAL TARGET DRONE BQM-74E Chuckar III Part No. 89500”, the incident created a scare among local fisher folks.

“Members of fisherfolk group Pamalakaya-Masbate are now unsure of their safety because U.S. spy planes and UAVs can freely enter and roam our skies,” said the solon who also described drones as ‘flying killing machines.’

“The incident is a proof that the U.S. is conducting a ‘secret drone operation’ in the country. The presence of drones in the Philippines raises legal, geopolitical and ethical questions on the US government’s breach of our national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

“This is not our first encounter with a U.S. drone. In 2005, a drone crashed in Sultan Kudarat. In 2009, a drone was discovered off the coast of Pio V. Corpuz town in Masbate during the Joint US-PH Balikatan exercises. Last year, a U.S. drone airstrike reportedly killed 15 Jeemayah Islamiyah rebels in Jolo, Sulu,” said Mariano.

While the U.S. Embassy in the Philippines confirmed that the drone is a property of the United States government, it denied that the said drone is being used for surveillance. “If the drone was not used for surveillance, what was it for and how did it crashed near a populated area in Ticao Island?” Mariano asked.

“The mere fact that the drone was found in Masbate, a known hotbed of local insurgency, it means that drones are used for anti-insurgency campaign, probably for surveillance and gathering of video feeds which are common use of drones.”

“We have all the reasons to be alarmed with this incident. The U.S. is notorious for engaging in a global drone war. It owns and controls an estimate of 7,500 armed and unarmed drones that it uses to track so-called ‘terrorist enemies.’ From 2004 to 2012, U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan have reportedly killed over 3,000 people, many are non-terrorists.”

Mariano said the Department of National Defense (DND) and the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) Commission must disclose the deployment and operations of foreign/US-owned UAVs in Philippine territories.

“Through VFA, the Aquino government blatantly allowed the direct participation of U.S. troops in combat and military operations of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). It allowed the use of U.S. high-technology military equipment against insurgents. It also authorized U.S. military warships to patrol our seas and dock in our ports. In 2012, U.S. warships docked in local ports across the country for over 80 times. Early this week, U.S. warship USS Bremerton, believed to be carrying ammunition and nuclear-powered weapons, docked at Subic Bay.

“The existence and presence of drones in our territories poses great risk to Filipinos, especially to civilians. The drone operation also contributes to the increasing tension in the West Philippine Sea,” Mariano concluded.

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