Crashed US drone in PHL waters triggers anew call to abrogate VFA

Jan. 08, 2013

“That drone is another concrete evidence, in addition to those that already piled up through the years, of how the US intervenes overtly and covertly, in our affairs as a nation.” – Atty. Carlos Zarate, Union of People’s Lawyers in Mindanao

Davao Today

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – The recovered US drone that crashed in the Philippine waters Sunday triggered anew calls to abrogate the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and other “unequal treaties” with the US government.

“That drone is another concrete evidence, in addition to those that already piled up through the years, of how the US intervenes overtly and covertly, in our affairs as a nation,” laywer Carlos Zarate of the Union of People’s Lawyers in Mindanao told in a text.

On January 6, a four-meter long US-made unmanned aerial vehicle drifting some 300 meters from the shore of San Jacinto town in Ticao Island, Masbate was recovered by a couple of fishermen.  The vehicle was identified as a BQM-74E Chukar III target drone.

US Embassy spokeswoman Tina Malone reportedly said the drone is used as an air defense target in military training exercises.  She denied that the unmanned vehicle is armed and is used for surveillance.

“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,” said Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) secretary general Renato Reyes, Jr. in a statement.

The militant leader said that the US government needs to explain if it was conducting live fire exercises in the area and if it has the approval of the Aquino government.

Bayan has called on the Senate to conduct a probe on the US military’s unrestricted use of drones in the country’s airspace saying it is a violation of 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?” he noted, adding that the US government has been using the VFA to gain unrestricted movement in the country’s airspace.

Bayan also said that the use of drones in the country raises question regarding the VFA.  Reyes said that while Article 8, Section 3 of the VFA provides that “aircraft operated by or for the United States armed forces shall observe local air traffic control regulations while in the Philippines,” it does not seem to hold true for US drones.

“The problem with US drones is that they can be used for surveillance and they can be used for actual combat operations,” Reyes said.  He added that the country is put in a situation where “a foreign power can fly anytime and anywhere it wants, undertake surveillance, and on occasion, even participate in actual combat operations.

He said that the drones underscore US direct involvement in internal conflict in the Philippines.  “The use of drones in PH airspace is another reason why we should junk the VFA,” he pointed out.

For his part, Zarate who’s also the second nominee of Bayan Muna Party said that the US with the help of Philippine leaders is still treating our country as their colony.  He lambasted political leaders, saying, “they continue to play blind, deaf, mute and dumb in these glaring and growing violations of our sovereignty.”

Zarate urged the people to use their sovereign power now to put an end “to this national malady.”  He emphasized that it’s very timely for the “VFA and other unequal treaties with the US be scrapped.”  (Marilou Aguirre-Tuburan/

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