MANILA-- Australian intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) assistance to Filipino forces engaged in clearing Maute Group terrorists in Marawi City has formally started last June 30.
This was bared by Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana at the sidelights of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) meeting at the AFP Commissioned Officers' Club in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City Tuesday.
"(ISR flights of the Australian AP-3Cs 'Orion') started last Friday and it will be here for two weeks," he said in Filipino.
Earlier, the Australian Defense Forces (ADF) pledged the use of two AP-3Cs to help the Philippines in its ongoing anti-terror operations in Marawi City.
Lorenzana said the two planes will be relieving each other as they conduct ISR missions in support of Philippine troops.
The DND chief said the AP-3Cs, along with their Australian crew, will be also carrying Filipino pilots and technicians, who will be tasked to relay the information and images they obtained via overflights, to Philippine ground units in Zamboanga who will then forward it to troops engaged in Marawi City.
Lorenzana also said the Australian aircraft can operate for stretches of 24 hours, ensuring constant coverage of Marawi City.
Fighting with the Maute Group terrorists started shortly after attempts by the military to apprehend Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, a staunch ally of the lawless elements, last May 23.
As of this posting, the number of Maute Group terrorists neutralized is placed at 337 with 82 government troops killed and 44 civilians executed.
With these AP-3Cs from the ADF, our troops can benefit from enhanced airborne surveillance of the area any time of the day thereby improving operations on the ground," the DND chief earlier said.
The Philippines and Australia have an extensive Defense Cooperation Program that provides the mechanisms for military support, intelligence sharing, and people to people exchanges.
In the fight against global terror, we need to act as a community of nations. Any help and support we can get from our friends and allies will always be welcome, Lorenzana said.
Source: Philippines News Agency