An American drone was found by fishermen in waters off the Philippines Monday, prompting concerns among local military officials and activist groups.
The unarmed BQM-74E unmanned aerial vehicle was found off the coast of Masbate, reported the Philippine Star, which confirmed that a U.S. Navy ship originally launched the drone during a combat exercise last year.
U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Bettina Malone told the newspaper that the drone was launched from the USS Chafee off the coast of Guam, which is American territory, during an exercise last September. The drone then likely drifted on ocean currents to the shore of the Philippines.
“This type of vehicle is not armed and not used for surveillance,” Malone said.
However, some Philippine lawmakers and politicians have called for an investigation into the drone crash.
“Whether it is an aerial target drone, a surveillance drone, or an attack drone, there are no clear guidelines on the use of these unmanned aerial vehicles in Philippine territory. It appears that the U.S. government has been using the Visiting Forces Agreement to gain unrestricted movement in [Philippine] airspace,” Secretary General Renato Reyes Jr., of the leftist New Patriotic Alliance, said in a statement obtained by the Sun Star.
Reyes said the use of drones in Philippine airspace is “a violation of our national sovereignty. … No sovereign nation would allow a foreign power unhampered use of domestic airspace.”
Other groups called for an end to the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the United States and the Philippines. “I think it is being used to spy against insurgents, and this is against the terms of the VFA,” Philippine Rep. Walden Bello told the Inquirer.
The Philippine government has said that drones have been used in joint military drills with the United States in its territory. Around 600 American troops are stationed in the country.
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