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Philippines To Purchase Unmanned Spy Planes

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by Staff Writers
Manila (AFP) Feb 01, 2006
Philippines President Gloria Arroyo has ordered the purchase of unmanned spy planes to help guard the troubled southeast Asian archipelago's maritime borders, the presidential palace said Wednesday.

The executive order issued by Arroyo called for a "maritime aerial reconnaissance and surveillance" program to be supervised by the intelligence services, according to the text of the order released by her office.

Arroyo authorized the "procurement or lease of unmanned aerial vehicles", or drones, as well as other reconnaissance and surveillance equipment, the statement said.

The new spy hardware shall provide "dominant situational awareness to swiftly and effectively interdict when an illegal activity occurs," she said.

The Philippines is grappling with both communist and Muslim separatist rebellions, as well as the threat of violence from Islamic militants with alleged links to the Al-Qaeda network.

Manila also is embroiled in a territorial dispute with its neighbors over the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.

The drones will primarily fly over maritime zones to "enhance the national capability to gather near real-time video recording and information for decision-making needs," the Arroyo directive said.

The Philippines is an archipelago of more than 7,000 islands that shares a vast, common sea border with other Southeast Asian countries where Al-Qaeda-linked militants operate.

Regional intelligence officials say members of the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) network, blamed for a string of deadly attacks, have been freely entering the southern Philippine island of Mindanao to train with local militants.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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