This week, the United States announced that it had begun deploying a more capable unmanned aircraft system in the Philippines to help its oldest Asian ally fight terrorism. The move marked yet another step in Washington’s ongoing effort to boost the capabilities of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) as they confront the rising threat from the Islamic State made clear by the ongoing siege of Marawi City by militants that broke out in May.
As I have noted before, despite the occasional hype that has emerged about the U.S. surveillance activities since Duterte came to office, Washington in fact has had a longstanding presence in the Philippines, and part of that has involved assisting with surveillance capabilities that Manila does not have and badly needs (See: “What’s Behind the New US-Philippines Drone Hype Under Duterte?”).
That continues up to today. Officially, Philippine defense officials have publicly said there