US drone found in Masbate came from Guam: embassy
MANILA, Philippines – A US Navy drone believed to be used for reconnaissance was not launched inside Philippine territory, a United States embassy spokesperson said Tuesday.
In a statement, US embassy spokesman Tina Malone said the drone, with model number BQM 74-E, was released by a US ship off the coast of Guam in September last year during a military exercise.
"The unarmed target drone that washed ashore off the coast of Masbate Island is an expended BQM-74E Aerial Target drone that was launched from the USS Chafee during exercise Valiant Shield 2012 on September 19, 2012 off the coast of Guam," said Malone.
"It appears that ocean currents brought the drone to where it washed ashore last week off Masbate Island," she added.
Fishermen found the 3.65 meter (12-foot) drone floating off Masbate island and dragged it to shore on Monday, said provincial police chief Senior Superintendent Heriberto Olitoquit.
The US embassy earlier said the US Navy drone was neither armed nor used for spying.
Col. Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos, Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesman, confirmed the drone was not used in Philippine territory during an exercise with United States.
He downplayed rumors that the drone was used for spying.
"Our initial assessment is that the aerial target drone was used in a military exercise outside the Philippine territorial waters somewhere in the Pacific. Due to strong currents and weather disturbances that frequent the Pacific, the aerial target drone was possibly washed adrift into our territorial waters," he said.
He added: “The AFP maintains that the drone found in Masbate is not a spy plane but an aerial target drone. Its orange color and US Navy logo suggests that it is used primarily to simulate enemy missiles and aircraft during exercises.”
The spokesman said US forces do not use drones during exercises with their Filipino counterparts. "We have not used such kind of target drones. (What we do) is more of maneuver exercises," he said.
The drone is currently under the custody of Naval Forces Southern Luzon based in Legaspi City.