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Philippines to Become Major non-NATO Ally, Bush Says

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 19, 2003 – Following a meeting today with the Philippine president, President Bush announced the United States will designate the Philippines as a major non-NATO ally, smoothing the road to military cooperation.

Bush and Gloria Macapagal Arroyo met at the White House and discussed the continuing global war on terror, Philippine support for operations in Iraq and U.S. help on the economic front.

"There may be others who might feel timid or hostile about U.S. leadership in the war against terrorism," Arroyo said. "We believe that U.S. leadership and engagement with the U.S. makes the world a safer place for all of us to live in."

Making the Philippines a major non-NATO ally "will allow our countries to work together on military research and development, and give the Philippines greater access to American defense equipment and supplies," Bush said during an East Room press conference. He noted this puts the Philippines in the same class as Australia, Japan, Israel and Egypt.

The two presidents also discussed developments in Iraq. "I appreciate her strong support for the disarmament and liberation of that country," Bush said. "I'm also grateful that the Philippine government plans to commit military police and medical personnel to assist in the reconstruction of Iraq."

Both presidents stressed the United States and the Philippines are committed for the long haul in the global war on terror. "The murder of citizens from both our countries last week in Saudi Arabia reminds us that this war is far from over," Bush said.

"The Philippine government is strongly committed to defeating terrorists operating in its own part of the world, such is the Abu Sayyaf group. The United States is committed to helping when asked."

The two reviewed last year's highly successful deployment of U.S. troops to the southern Philippines, and agreed to a similar deployment soon. The exercise will be much like last year's efforts on Basilon Island -- U.S. forces would support the Philippine-led anti-terror operations.

They also discussed developments with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front currently operating in the southern part of the archipelago. "That group must abandon the path of violence," Bush said. "If it does so and addresses its grievances through peaceful negotiations, then the United States will provide diplomatic and financial support to a renewed peace process."

The United States will help facilitate Arroyo's commitment to improve the capacity of the Philippine Armed Forces. "We have agreed to launch a comprehensive review of Philippine security requirements, and how the United States can best support Philippine military modernization and reform," Bush said. "In addition, we are prepared to help Philippine forces address their most pressing needs, such as mobility, equipment and spare parts."

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