MANILA, March 27, Kyodo — Two of the five trainer aircraft leased by Japan to the Philippines for use in maritime patrols were formally received at a ceremony on Monday, with the planes set to serve under the Southeast Asian country’s armed forces over the next five years.
The two TC-90 aircraft arrived mid-morning at Heracleo Alano naval base in Cavite Province, south of Manila, where a handover ceremony was conducted for what Japan’s defense equipment agency says is the first time that Japanese Self-Defense Forces aircraft have been transferred to another country.
“These planes are expected to enhance our country’s capacity in maritime security, as well as provide the Philippine Navy the needed air assets for other missions,” Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said in a speech there.
Lorenzana said the aircraft will also be used for humanitarian and disaster relief operations.
Kenji Wakamiya, senior vice defense minister who also attended the ceremony, noted that the TC-90s have been used by the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force for many different missions and said Japan is willing to provide more support in the future.
The two countries signed an agreement in October over the lease of the five TC-90s, with Tokyo apparently hoping that assisting the Philippines’ efforts to bolster its maritime patrolling capabilities will be beneficial in countering China’s assertiveness in the South China Sea.
The lease contract for the five aircraft amounts to $28,000 per year, with the Philippines hoping that the aircraft will eventually be donated to them once a legal framework in Japan allows for such action.
The remaining three TC-90s are expected to be delivered to the Philippines by the end of March next year.
According to Philippine Navy spokesman Capt. Lued Lincuna, two Filipino pilots and six maintenance crew are training in Japan for the operation and upkeep of the TC-90s.