Tuesday, 2 June 2009

US to help beef up Philippine military capability

2010 US budget includes policy approach for allies
M. P. T. Jamias

THE PHILIPPINES can expect increased military capability-building assistance from the Obama administration, which has adopted a strategy to beef up capacities of Asian allies in the war against terrorism, the top US Defense chief said yesterday.

"Looking forward, I believe [the Philippines-US] relationship needs to evolve into a broader, strategic one," said US Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates in a joint press conference with Defense Secretary Gilberto C. Teodoro, Jr. in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City yesterday.

Mr. Gates noted that his department has added "hundreds of millions of dollars" to the 2010 US budget for allies to "advance this kind of partnering where we build partner capacity."

"I think one of the fundamental tenets of American foreign policy under the Obama administration, as well as the Department of Defense itself, is the growing importance of partnering around the world and building partner capacity," he added.

Messrs. Gates and Teodoro met to discuss defense relations.

"The visit of Secretary Gates is one step further to the goal [of] increasing "enduring cooperation" between and amongst our armed forces, defense departments and our governments to combat common threats in international terrorism," said Mr. Teodoro in the same briefing.

The US military has been training troops in counter-terrorism in Sulu province, a stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf with links to international terrorist organizations al Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiyah.

Mr. Gates commended the Philippine military and expressed collaboration in the future. "We will continue to support their efforts to defeat terrorists and extremists threatening their country and the region. Together, we will not relent until this threat has been eliminated."

For his part, Mr. Teodoro said both countries will "join hand-in-hand to solve regional or area-wide problems."

He said the Philippines should "develop its own capacities" instead of relying on foreign aid alone.

The Philippines is set to receive $667 million in official development assistance under the proposed 2010 budget submitted to the US Congress, according to an earlier report from the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Philippine-US military relations have been threatened by the Senate’s rejection of a new military basing agreement in 1991, and the conviction in December 2004 of US Marine Lance Corporal Daniel J. Smith for raping a Filipino in Subic that nearly affected the annual Balikatan joint military exercises. The Makati regional trial court ruling was overturned by the Court of Appeals last April based on a new affidavit released by the victim identified as Nicole.

The Philippines has a Mutual Defense Treaty with the US that was signed in 1947.

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