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US gives Philippine air force first drones

AFP  |  Manila 

The gave the today its first surveillance drone system, as the two nations step up cooperation in the battle against jihadist militants.

has been boosting its backing for Philippine counter-terror efforts since Islamic State supporters seized parts of the southern city of last year, sparking a deadly five-month battle.

The unmanned aerial vehicle system worth $13.2 million, including six drones, turned over to Philippine troops was the latest US assistance.

"Assets like the ScanEagle will significantly improve the (Philippine military's) ability to detect terrorist activities, piracy activities, territory encroachment," US Ambassador to told reporters, referring to the drones.

Philippine said the system, equipped with cameras and aircraft that can fly for 24 hours, would support operations against militants in the south.

The southern region of Mindanao is home to several pro-IS groups, including those that attacked in May last year in fighting that claimed more than 1,100 lives and reduced large parts of the city to rubble.

These new drones are to be used for reconnaissance missions in defence, humanitarian assistance and disaster response, Lorenzana said.

"With a number of security issues confronting our country today, there is a need to upgrade our nation's armed forces," Lorenzana said.

had sought to loosen the Philippines' 70-year alliance with the US in favour of closer ties with and

His anger was partly driven by American criticism of his drug war, which has seen police kill thousands of people and prompted an preliminary examination.

Relations have improved under US Donald Trump, who has praised Duterte for his drug war but the Philippine leader has increasingly turned to and to boost one of Asia's weakest armed forces.

Duterte last month cancelled a deal to buy helicopters from after ordered a review over human rights concerns.

"Do not buy anymore from and the US because there is always a condition attached," Duterte said at the time.

The did not immediately respond to requests for comment on whether the drones implied similar rights concerns.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Tue, March 13 2018. 15:35 IST
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