Philippine Navy officials have reported the discovery of an abandoned US drone floating in the waters near the central Philippines. According to published reports, Filipino fishermen discovered an orange BQM-74E target drone floating in the sea off the coast of the island of Masbate and turned it over to local authorities.
The deputy naval commander in the province, Captain Jason Rommel Galang, was quoted as saying the drone appeared to have been in the water for a lengthy period of time and had markings that indicated it was of American origin.
American forces were given Philippine government approval to conduct unmanned reconnaissance flights over Philippine territory some years ago. Aerial strikes using UAVs are not authorized. At least two other American drones are believed to have crashed on the southern island of Mindanao where the remains were recovered by local villagers.
Some 600 members of various branches of the US military have been rotating in and out of the Philippines since 2002 to assist in training Filipino forces to combat Islamic extremists in a decades-long war that has been raging in the southern islands of the archipelago. US forces, prohibited from engaging in direct combat operations, have employed surveillance/reconnaissance drones to assist Filipino forces to locate and engage Islamic militants known to have al-Qaida connections in the southern regions.
Masbate Island, near where the drone was recovered, is hundreds of kilometers distance from the center of the Islamic insurgency and no US forces are known to be located on the island. Residents of the island are known to support communist guerrillas who have also been engaged in a lengthy struggle with the central government.
On 8 January, the United States Embassy in Manila confirmed that the recovered drone was an “unarmed target drone” launched from the guided-missile destroyer USS Chafee while deployed in waters surrounding the island of Guam in September of 2012 during a naval warfare exercise.