US, PH bolster ties for 'free, open maritime environment'

The United States said the recent turnover of four Cessna 172 Skylark planes to the Philippine Naval Air Wing is part of its commitment to invest in the country's further development.

(Photo from US Embassy in the Philippines)

The US turned over on Friday, Feb. 10, the brand new planes to the Philippine Naval Air Wing based in Sangley Point, Cavite as part of a P298.1 million ($5.8-million) grant under its Foreign Military Financing (FMF) program.

The Cessna planes will be used to train new naval aviators, as well as to maintain the capabilities of current pilots and the technical expertise of aviation mechanics.

"This project displays the United States’ commitment to our Philippine partners to invest in their long-term success," US Embassy in the Philippines Chargé d’Affaires ad interim Heather Variava said.

"Together, the United States and the Philippines will continue to make great strides in the pursuit of a free and open maritime environment," she added.

The latest turnover completed the transfer of the four Cessna planes that arrived and were reassembled on location in December 2021.

Prior to the aircraft’s delivery, the United States provided pilot and mechanic training to 24 Philippine service members in Kansas City, Kansas in August and September 2021.

The entire package also included the shipment of spare parts and an integral logistics support package, and will conclude with the scheduled delivery of three US-sourced Robinson R44 helicopters in late 2022.

Meanwhile, Department of Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana welcomed this development, adding that the government has been recognizing the "productive and enduring relationship" between the US and the Philippines.

"We acknowledge our shared commitment to help preserve the peace and security in the Indo-Pacific region," Lorenzana said.

"These air assets will significantly improve the navy’s ability to prepare naval pilots for the crucial task of monitoring and safeguarding our maritime territories and domain," he noted.

In the past two years, the United States has provided $110 million (P5.65 billion) in grant assistance through FMF, specifically to support the Philippines’ sovereignty and modernization efforts.