The Philippine Navy has received an additional three Beechcraft TC-90 King Air aircraft from Japan. Delfin Lorenzana, in a speech at a naval base, said the three Japanese donated second-hand TC90 aircraft will definitely boost the navy’s capability to gather intelligence in the West Philippines Sea.
“We must admit that much still has to be done to boost our military capability equipment in order to meet a number of persistent maritime security challenges,” Lorenzana said, identifying territorial disputes with China, and other countries, over resource-rich areas in the South China Sea.
Japan initially leased the TC-90s to the Philippines but later transferred them as a grant after restrictions on Japanese donations of excess defense and military equipment to allies and other countries were eased, he said.
Two of the aircraft were delivered in March 2017, and it was used by the Philippine Navy for the first time in late January to patrol the Scarborough area.
The Philippine military said it would continue aerial patrols of a Chinese -held shoal near the South China Sea despite protests from China over the flights.
Earlier in January, a U.S. guided missile destroyer USS Hopper sailed within 12 nautical miles of Scarborough without China’s permission to assert the freedom of navigation and this month, the USS Mustin warship sailed close to Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands and carried out maneuvering actions.
China took control of Scarborough Shoal in 2012 after a tense standoff with Philippine Coast Guard ships. The uninhabited reef is about 200 km (120 miles) from Subic, Philippines.
Mischief Reef or Kagitingan Reef was controlled by the Philippines until China take over the place by building fisherman’s shelter in 1995.
Both Reefs are a territory of the Philippines until China took control.
Japan’s vice minister for defense, Tatsuo Fukuda, said Tokyo was willing to help its allies improve its capabilities help secure the safety of international sea lanes and benefit not only the Philippines but the entire region.