Teodoro cites stronger RP-US defense, security cooperation

September 11, 2009 11:04 am 

MANILA, Sept. 11 — The future of the Philippines-United States defense and security cooperation looks brighter and stronger following talks in Washington, D.C. on Thursday (Manila time) between visiting Defense Secretary Gilberto C. Teodoro Jr. and his U.S. counterpart, Secretary Robert Gates.

The Philippine defense chief, who is seeking the ruling Lakas-Kampi-CMD’s nomination for president in next year’s elections, said he and Gates reached an agreement to bring the RP-US defense engagement and cooperation to a high gear.

Teodoro emerged from the meeting — the high point of his five-day visit to Washington — assured by Gates of U.S. commitment to support efforts by the Department of National Defense and the Armed Forces of the Philippines to crush terrorists undermining the peace and stability of the country.

Following up on their meeting in Manila last June, Teodoro and Gates acknowledged the clear and present danger posed by the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG)-Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) and rogue Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) elements in Southern Philippines.

Teodoro emphasized that the Philippine government has significantly weakened the ASG following recent major clashes with the terrorist group in Southern Philippines that resulted in the capture by the AFP forces of a major ASG training camp.

Both officials also expressed pleasure over the progress of the security cooperation that has enhanced the Mutual Defense Treaty between the two countries.

During their talk, Teodoro and Gates also agreed to explore mutual strategic security interests, particularly in areas that are non-traditional security threats such as humanitarian assistance and disaster response (HADR), climate change, drug trafficking, and maritime security.

They also discussed the U.S. government’s support to improve the capabilities of the Philippine defense establishment, particularly the AFP.

Teodoro pointed out the need to focus efforts on force build-up for internal security operations. He said that there is a need to enhance the Navy’s Coast Watch South (CWS), in partnership with the U.S. and other countries, in order to deny use of the Sulu and Celebes Seas by non-traditional maritime threats for illegal activities.

He underscored the significance of the U.S. assistance in government’s infrastructure projects such as construction of school facilities, water systems, and farm-to-market roads in Mindanao areas prone to conflict.

These projects, he said, have greatly improved the quality of lives of the people in Mindanao.

Gates lauded Teodoro especially for his efforts to institutionalize reforms in the DND and the AFP through the Philippine Defense Reform Program (PDR).

Reforms will take root in the organization, Teodoro assured the U.S. Defense chief while thanking him for Washington’s financial assistance and technical support to the PDR.

Gates also praised Teodoro for the DND's successful hosting of the first ASEAN Regional Forum-Voluntary Disaster Response (ARF-VDR) event last May, which was a Humanitarian Assistance exercise held in Pampanga and Manila, and participated in by 26 countries.

He underscored the need to sustain the conduct of such activity as a means of improving multilateral coordination and interoperability, most particularly in addressing humanitarian assistance and disaster response situations. (PNA) scs/VR

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