July 4, 2012
|Lockheed P-3C Orion of the US Navy now operating at West Philippine Sea|
In a diplomatic tact, Malacanang Palace insists presence of Clark-based P3C Orion belonging to the US Navy for overflight missions to South China Sea are for monitoring purposes and assured Beijing that the overflights were strictly for surveillance and not meant to provoke China.
President Benigno Aquino III revealed on Tuesday that the Philippine government was still planning to ask the United States to send P3C Orion “spy planes” for monitoring missions but mum on the questions why they are already here.
The President met recently with US counterpart Barack Obama in Washington last month with the maritime dispute high on the agenda. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stressed its "neutral position" to the maritime dispute between China and the Philippines.
Aquino said China should not be alarmed by Philippine efforts to improve its monitoring capability.
"Does the Philippines have the capacity to become an aggressor?" he asked.
"By any stretch of the imagination, the Philippines does not. So why should it upset a superpower if we're all reasonable?"
A Pentagon official brief earlier stated that the US Pacific Command made an initial offer in August last year to deploy the P3C Orion spy planes to the Philippines to help monitor disputed areas in the South China Sea after China increased its presence and activities near Reed Bank. The offer was accepted by the Philippine government but exact details of the agreement remained unknown.
In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland declined to comment on the Orion aircraft, but said Washington has long assisted Manila, a formal security treaty ally.
"As part of our longstanding military cooperation, the United States supports the Philippines in enhancing its maritime domain awareness," she told a news briefing.
"We are talking about helping the Philippines be aware of what is going on and supporting our ally in defense of its own security," added Nuland.
In a carefully crafted statement, Presidential Communications Development Secretary Ramon Carandang said that the deployment of “spy planes” was only one of the options being considered by the government to protect the country’s sovereignty over the disputed areas and is not meant to provoke China since the spy planes would not be armed.
The Lockheed P-3 Orion is a four-engine turboprop anti-submarine and maritime surveillance aircraft developed by Lockheed Martin for the United States Navy.
A recent reconnaissance missions of one of Orion's sibling, the US Navy EP-3E reconnaisance plane led to midair collision in 2001 with People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) J-8II jet fighter-interceptor resulting to the crash of the latters jet and death of its pilot. The damaged spy plane landed safely at Hainan' s Lingshui airfield, dubbed as Hainan Island incident.