Tuesday, November 01, 2011

US spent $507M in military aid to Philippines

MANILA, Philippines—The United States provided over $507 million (about P21.7 billion) in military assistance to the Philippines from 2001 to 2010, US Ambassador Harry Thomas Jr. has disclosed.

Add to that more than P200 million in “improvements at various Armed Forces of the Philippines bases” that Washington had invested in the just-concluded Philippines-US Amphibious Landing Exercise, or Phiblex.

Speaking during the Phiblex closing rites last weekend at Fort Bonifacio, Thomas said that “at Basa Air Base (in Pampanga) alone, over P42 million have been earmarked to build barracks, latrines and a dining facility for both Philippine and US troops, while at Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija, over P25 million is being spent on road improvements.”

The envoy noted that the US government “has worked with the Armed Forces of the Philippines for nearly a decade to blunt the ability of terrorists to spread violence and fear in the Southern Philippines.”

“We’ve provided radars as part of the Coast Watch System. And we’ve recently transferred a Hamilton-class US Coast Guard Cutter that has now become a proud flagship of the Philippine Navy,” Thomas said.

At the same time, Thomas said “just like past bilateral (military) exercises and activities (between the two countries), all those involved in this year’s Phiblex have enjoyed a sense of camaraderie, teamwork, hard work and good fun.”

“We look forward to doing it all again next year,” he said.

Thomas reported that “for the past 12 days, our two nations’ soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines worked together as a team with a single purpose. The lessons learned during the long hours of exercise are important, but so are the lessons learned during those few moments of rest, when our respective service members had the chance to share a joke, learn some new words, maybe try a little ‘halo-halo’, and make a friend for life.”

The 10-day Phiblex, he emphasized, “has a very simple purpose: helping the US and the Philippines work together to build that safe and secure environment free and democratic nations need to live, work and prosper.”

“Our commitment to this shared objective is embodied in our Mutual Defense Treaty, a pillar of our relationship. The MDT enables us to work together. It facilitates our cooperation and training, and it allows us to serve our citizens more efficiently and more professionally,” he pointed out.

Like the MDT, Phiblex “too reflects the longstanding, close relationship between the Philippines and the US. Our countries share not only a common history, but we also share a mutual commitment to global peace, security and prosperity. Phiblex is our chance to practice the skills that allow us to be better partners in disaster relief, in peace-keeping operations and in counter-terrorism efforts,” said Thomas.

Phiblex “offers the opportunity to improve military skills, an opportunity made possible through the hospitality of the AFP,” he added.

Earlier, the US embassy said the Phiblex “attests to the strength and longevity of bilateral ties between our two countries.”

The mission, however, clarified that the 2,000 American troops taking part in the war games came here “at the invitation of the Republic of the Philippines and the Armed Forces of the Philippines.”

On October 17, US Marines and sailors from the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade kicked off their combined training with the AFP to “improve interoperability, increase readiness and build professional and personal relationships.”

In a statement, the embassy said the Phiblex “takes place in various locations in the Philippines and includes a range of activities – from community relations activities such as a school building project, medical and dental care missions, as well as humanitarian assistance missions, to amphibious landing and live fire exercises.”

Captain Bradley Lee, commodore of the US Amphibious Squadron 11, said their “participation in Phiblex will demonstrate our commitment to mutual security and our longtime partnership with the Philippine government.”

Lee added “the US and the Philippines have had a long-standing relationship for many years.”

Brigadier General Eugene Clemen, Philippine exercise head, some 1,000 Filipino Marines took part in the Phiblex, a part of which was held in Palawan.

Phiblex training exercises were also held simultaneously in other venues, like Marine Barracks Gregorio Lim in Cavite, Crow Valley in Tarlac, and the Naval Station San Miguel in Zambales.

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