Press Releases

Salceda: Air exercises between US and PH to benefit Philippine air defense, but better coordination between DND and civil aviation authorities needed; House tax chair supports bid to acquire F-16s

July 20th, 2023

House Ways and Means Chair Joey Sarte Salceda (Albay, 2nd district) in a statement says that the training exercises between the United States and the Philippines, using US air assets, to boost the Philippines’ air defense capabilities as part of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) will benefit the country’s air defense, but the Department of National Defense needs to coordinate with the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) so that “there are no misunderstandings about US aircraft that enter our airspace.”

Salceda gave the statement in response to calls from some legislators that the Philippines should monitor US aircraft just as closely as incursions by Chinese vessels in the West Philippine Sea.

“Actually, the aircraft entering the country’s airspace are part of an air exercise program. It’s called Cope Thunder, and it ends tomorrow,” Salceda said.

“Increased US air presence in the Philippines is part of exercises called Cope Thunder 23-2, which began on July 2 and will continue until July 21.”

“It’s good for us. It’s training without having to acquire new hardware. But, moving forward, the Department of National Defense, as guarantor of the authorized entry of US aircraft, should coordinate more closely, or even come up with a formal memorandum of agreement, with civilian air authorities outlining the terms of entry of US aircraft in Philippine airspace.”

Cope Thunder includes some 160 Airmen and 12 F-16 fighters from the 35th Fighter Wing at Misawa Air Base, Japan, who will exercise with the Philippine Air Force, according to the US Pacific Air Forces (PACAF).

“That means, our pilots get to practice on F-16s, without us having to buy them immediately. One F-16 costs around P3 billion. You want to be sure our pilots are capable of operating them, together with our new artillery capabilities, before we purchase.”

Nonetheless, Salceda adds, he strongly supports the acquisition of F-16 fighter jets by the Philippine Air Force.

“The F-16 has both defensive and offensive capabilities. It can be launched within minutes and equipped to shoot down incoming missiles and enemy aircraft. In other words, it is extremely versatile and can respond to threats within minutes,” Salceda explained.

“It will help deter invasion because it can deny air superiority against a larger opponent,” Salceda added.

Salceda also pointed out that “the US has already given us the space to buy 12 new F-16s, and our countries already have an understanding that we will eventually buy at least some of them.”

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