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PIA Press Release

US renews commitment to aid RP in fight vs terror

Manila, June 2 (PNA) -- The top security official of the administration of United States President Barack Obama on Monday renewed the commitment of his government in helping the Philippines address threats posed by terrorists and extremist groups.

In a press conference at the Armed Forces general headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he is also looking forward for a broader and deeper defense cooperation with the Philippines.

Gates and Philippine Defense Secretary earlier figured in a one-on-meeting inside the camp to discuss issues of mutual concerns, including the global threat of terrorism and responding to the threat of disasters.

"I look forward to meeting a few Filipino troops after this meeting. I will tell them as (I) told Secretary Teodoro - that we are partners and we'll continue to strongly support their efforts to defeat terrorists and extremists threatening their country and the region," said Gates.

"Together, we will not relent until this threat has been eliminated," said Gates. The US has been a great partner of the Philippines in the fight against terrorist over the past several years.

The Americans have trained and equipped the elite Light Reaction Battalion of the Army. Also, a number of US forces are still in the South, training Filipino troops fight the Abu Sayyaf and providing the needed intelligence information.

"Looking forward, I believe our relation needs to evolve into a broader, strategic one. The Philippines can play an important role in regional peace and stability and in fact just hosted the Asean regional forum's first ever field exercise," said Gates.

"I also thank the Philippines for its contribution to aid United Nations missions. It is clear that the Philippines is taking on a larger role on the world stage and as it does, this relationship, one of our oldest alliance partnership in Asia, is one that I believe that will endure and deepen in the years to come," he added.

For his part, Teodoro thanked Gates for visiting the country. This is the first visit of a US defense chief to the Philippines in almost 10 years. Gates has been in the country about 20 years ago on a different capacity.

"We had a good conversation about a number of issues from United States assistance to the Armed Forces of the Philippines, to broader regional security matters," said Gates on the issues he discussed with Teodoro during a brief meeting.

"Over the last decade, the Philippines has faced a number of security challenges and has met them squarely. This is testimony to Secretary Teodoro's strong leadership, his efforts to reform the Armed Forces and a courage and adaptability of the Filipino military," said Gates.

On the call of some groups to review or abrogate the RP-US Visiting Forces Agreement, Gates said US is satisfied with the current VFA, that provides legal framework to all joint exercise between US and Filipino forces.

Some quarters are clamoring for review or abrogation of the agreement following the problem on the custody issue on Lance Corporal Daniel Smith who had been convicted by a Makati City court of raping a Filipino. He was later exonerated by a higher court.

During the pendency of the case, Smith stayed at the US embassy in Manila when he, the proponents said, should be with the control of the Philippine government.

"The United States is quite comfortable with the VFA. We are both nations of laws. This agreement provides us with the legal basis for having our people here in partnership with the Armed Forces of the Philippines. We think it works and we are satisfied," said Gates. (PIA-MMIO) [top]

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