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US sends soldiers to Cebu

DESPITE the anti-American rhetoric from President Rodrigo Duterte, the United States Air Force sent two C-130 Hercules aircraft and some 100 servicemen as part of the continuing defense cooperation between the two countries.

The US Embassy said in a statement it was the third time for the US Pacific Command dispatch an air contingent to the Philippines after the joint announcement of former Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and US Defense Secretary Ash Carter in April.

The public affairs office of the Pacific Air Forces said the aircraft and personnel came from the 374th Air Wing at Yokota Air Base in Japan and the 36th Contingency Response Group from Andersen Air Force Base in Guam.

They were sent to Mactan-Benito Ebuen Air Base in Lapu-Lapu City, Cebu to hold training and integration session over two weeks with units of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

“The purpose of the Air Contingent is to promote increased interoperability between US and Filipino forces, and to further enhance security cooperation between the allies,” it said.

The embassy said the first iteration of the Air Contingent was held at Clark Air Base in Pampanga last April and consisted of A-10C Thunderbolt II and HH-60G Pave Hawk aircrafts some 200 airmen from different Pacaf units.

The second iteration occurred on June 15 with EA-18G Growlers and Navy personnel.

Aside from the Air Contingent, Philippine and US forces will also hold amphibious landing exercises set from October 4 to 12 in Luzon.

Also on Monday, the US Embassy said the US may take back the $6.7-million (P322-million) aid it  pledged to the Philippines for law enforcement if the two countries fail to agree on how it will be used.

US Embassy Press Attache and First Secretary Molly Koscina told CNN Philippines, “The $6.7 million in funds can be used only after agreement between the United States and the Philippines on their specific use. If no agreement is reached, the funds may be used in a country other than the Philippines.”

The amount is part of the $32 million (P1.5 billion) Washington earlier pledged to Manila. However, the money is not meant to finance police operations to hunt down drug criminals.

“The funds will strictly comply with US legal obligations and international law enforcement and policing standards,” Koscina said. “These funds are for programs supporting rule of law, due process, and maritime security. The funds are not for law enforcement operations.”

Topics: United States Air Force , C-130 Hercules , defense cooperation
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