By Alden M. Monzon, Reporter

Philippines places emphasis on drones’ search and rescue, not military, capabilities

Posted on February 19, 2015

THE PHILIPPINES is more interested in harnessing the humanitarian, not military, potential of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), more popularly known as drones, an armed forces official said on Wednesday.

While drones will give the country’s military “an edge in information gathering and in armed confrontations,” the interest in using them is primarily rooted in their potential for Humanitarian and Disaster Relief (HADR), Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Spokesperson Harold M. Cabunoc said.

Mr. Cabunoc made these remarks after he said that the country is expected to benefit from the policy change by the Obama administration to allow the widespread export and sale of drones to its allies including the Philippines.

For his part, Department of National Defense Public Affairs Service Chief Arsenio R. Andolong also confirmed that the military’s consideration for acquiring drones is mostly for its HADR operations.

“In general, drones will certainly enhance any country’s defense posture. In our case, however, their potential contribution to HADR is probably more important,” Mr. Andolong said in a text message.

“Our planners would first have to assess the technology’s efficiency and the effectiveness vis-à-vis our capabilities.”

The military has been secretive about the use of drones in its operations despite reports that these have already been used in missions.

The use of drones are “operational matters” and hence cannot be disclosed to the public, Philippine Army spokesperson Lt. Col. Noel J. Detoyato said.

Despite the secrecy, the military has displayed its unmanned aerial systems in Camp Aguinaldo in 2013 and has even published bid invitations for the acquisition of UAVs.

The US government on Tuesday established a policy for exports of military and commercial drones, including armed ones, and said it plans to work with other countries to shape global standards for the use of these systems.

The State Department said it would allow exports of lethal US military drones under strict conditions, saying that sales must be made through government programs and that recipient nations must agree to certain “end-use” assurances.