Two units of Beechcraft TC-90 training aircraft from Japan Ministry of Defense (JMOD) taxiway at the runway upon arrival during a transfer ceremony of the aircrafts to the Philippine Navy at the Naval Air Group (NAG) headquarters in Sangley Point, Cavite city. Image Credit: Reuters

Manila: The Philippines’ capability to patrol its maritime boundaries got a boost with the turnover on Monday of two military aircraft from Japan.

The transfer of two Beechcraft TC-90 marks the first time that Japan had transferred military hardware to the custody of a foreign government if only on a lease agreement. Under post-Second World War restrictions, the country is not allowed to engage in military sales to another country.

The twin-engined, propeller driven aircraft will largely be used by the Philippine Navy for patrolling maritime boundaries and also be used as a training aircraft pending the arrival of the remaining three more planes of the same type.

“The transfer of these TC-90s is a result of several agreements — the Memorandum on Defence Cooperation and Exchange that we entered with Japan in 2015 which is the agreement between Japan and the Philippine government concerning the transfer of defence equipment and technology, and the implantation for the transfer of the TC 90 which was signed by President Rodrigo Duterte when he visited Japan in 2016,” Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said.

The agreement was initiated during the administration of previous President Benigno Aquino III.

Leased in used condition, the aircraft, a militarised version of the civilian Beechcraft King Air, had earlier served the Japanese Coast Guard.

“Japan has agreed to lease five TC 90 to the Philippine Navy for a minimal cost. This transfer of defence equipment is the first among members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations [Asean],” Lorenzana said.

Captain Lued Lincuna spokesman for the Philippine Navy said the aircraft will not only enhance the capability of the country to monitor its maritime territory, but also improve humanitarian and disaster relief capabilities.

Japanese Minister of Defence Kenji Wakamiya said the Philippines is an important trading partner for Japan and that it is vital that the sea lanes between the two countries are always secure.

This particular project is the first bilateral cooperation programme in terms of defence equipment [for Japan].

Under the lease agreement, the Philippines will pay Japan $7,000 [Dh25,709] each as lease for the four aircraft and $200 for the fifth.

The aircraft is still fit to be used for more than 20 years.

Tokyo and Manila have been working together in the area of defence. Although President Duterte had promised closer ties with China, the country is bound by its 1951 defence treaty with the United States.