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Homeland Security

Washington File

19 May 2003

U.S., Philippines Strong Allies in War Against Terrorism

(May 19 Bush-Arroyo joint press conference) (3840)
The Philippines and the United States are "strong allies in the war on
terror," says President Bush.
During a joint press conference at the White House May 19 with
Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Bush noted: "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 U.S.-Philippine relationship "is stronger today than at
any time in our recent history." He announced U.S. plans to designate
the Philippines as a major "non-NATO ally."
"This step 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.
The United States is committed to helping, when asked, the
Philippines' fight against terrorists in the southern part of the
country, Bush said.
The president said the Moro Islamic Liberation Front must abandon the
path of violence. "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," he said.
The United States also stands ready to help improve the capacity of
the Philippine armed forces, Bush said. Bush said that he and
President Macapagal-Arroyo have agreed to launch "a comprehensive
review of Philippine security requirements and how the United States
can best support Philippine military modernization and reform. In
addition, we are prepared to help Philippine forces address their most
pressing needs, such as mobility, equipment, and spare parts."
Following is a transcript of the press availability, as released by
the White House:
(begin transcript)
The White House
May 19, 2003
President Bush, President Arroyo Hold Joint Press Conference
Joint Press Availability
with President Bush and
President Arroyo of the Philippines
The East Room
11:45 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all very much. Please be seated. Welcome.
We'll have some opening statements. The President and I will answer
some questions, two apiece per side. We'll alternate.
It is my honor to welcome President Arroyo back to the White House. We
took office on the same day over two years ago, and we have worked
closely ever since. President Arroyo is a friend of America, and a
friend of freedom. I appreciate her strength; I appreciate her
courage. And I appreciate you being here today, Madam President.
The relationship between the Philippines and the United States is
stronger today than at any time in our recent history. Our alliance
helps ensure the security of both our countries. This is a vital
alliance. And I was pleased to inform President Arroyo that the United
States plans to designate the Philippines as a major non-NATO ally.
This step will allow our countries to work together on military
research and development, and give the Philippines greater access to
American defense equipment and supplies.
The President and I also discussed developments in Iraq. I appreciate
her strong support for the disarmament and liberation of that country.
I'm also grateful that the Philippine government plans to commit
military police and medical personnel to assist in the reconstruction
of Iraq.
The Philippines and the United States are strong allies in the 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. The Philippine
government is strongly committed to defeating terrorists operating in
its own part of the world, such as the Abu Sayyaf group.
The United States is committed to helping, when asked. President
Arroyo and I reviewed last year's highly successful deployment of U.S.
troops to the southern Philippines, and we agreed to a similar
deployment in the near-term, in which U.S. forces would support
Philippine-led anti-terror operations.
The President and I also reviewed the developments with the Moro
Islamic Liberation Front -- MLIF [sic]. That group must abandon the
path of violence. 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.
My country welcomes President Arroyo's commitment to improve the
capacity of the Philippine armed forces, and we are prepared to help.
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. In addition, we are prepared to
help Philippine forces address their most pressing needs, such as
mobility, equipment, and spare parts.
Our countries have a strong economic relationship, and America
supports President Arroyo's program of economic reform. We agreed to
launch an initiative to make it easier and less costly for Filipino
workers in America to send remittances back to the Philippines. I also
informed President Arroyo that the United States will be extending new
benefits to World War II veterans from the Philippines who fought side
by side with American forces to defend freedom.
Finally, I'm honored to accept President Arroyo's generous invitation
to visit the Philippines this fall, when I intend to travel to
Southeast Asia for the APEC leaders meeting. In the meantime, to keep
our relationship moving forward, we'll be sending other senior
officers to Manila, starting with our Energy Secretary Spence Abraham.
The Philippines and America are old friends who are tackling a lot of
new challenges. Our relationship is strong; our relationship is
growing stronger.
Madam President.
PRESIDENT ARROYO: Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you once again for
inviting me on this state visit. As I said earlier, this shows how
warm is the relationship within our two countries. We've become closer
because of the war on terror. But our closeness is certainly rooted in
our deep and long shared history.
We became closer with the war on terror because the Philippines is one
of the first countries to join this war on terror. And the reason why
we did it is that with in the Philippines know what it is to suffer
from the hands of terrorism. We know the pain of terrorism. And we are
with you in your leadership against terrorism, wherever it may be
found. There may be others who might feel tainted or hostile about
U.S. leadership in the war against terrorism. We believe that the U.S.
leadership and engagement with the U.S. makes the world a safer place
for all of us to live in.
But this trip is not just about terrorism, it's about fighting
poverty. Poverty and terrorism are twin evils that we must fight. For
the Philippines, we consider the U.S. a strategic partner not only in
security matters, but also in the economy, in the fight against
poverty. I appreciate the support President Bush has announced with
regard to our security assistance, and also with regard to our
economic assistance and economic cooperation with each other.
And in other meetings that we will be having with American officials,
we model after agencies that are based in Washington, D.C. and with
the U.S. private sector. There will be other developments related to
this visit that I'm sure will enhance our relationship with each other
even more.
There's been a lot of work in preparation for this state visit. I was
supposed to come earlier. I was supposed to be here last March.
PRESIDENT ARROYO: And we've been working on what we can have together
in this state visit. But because we postponed it and we didn't know
the date of the state visit, because we didn't know the timetable for
the war, there were many things that America already helped us with in
preparation for this state visit, even without a date. So we -- I'd
like to thank you, President Bush, for what we have been able to
achieve before the state visit, what we are achieving in this state
visit, and what we will be achieving afterwards, because of the deeper
relationship that we have entered into, culminated in this wonderful
visit of ours to your country.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Madam President, thank you.
We'll start off with Tom.
Q: For both Presidents. Do the recent suicide -- the recent terror
bombings, including the ones in Morocco and Saudi Arabia, suggest that
al Qaeda is regrouping and back in business? And if so, is there a
chance that we overestimated the damage that we did to the
PRESIDENT BUSH: First of all, I have said that this is going to be --
always said this is going to be a long war, that -- not only a long
war, a new kind of war. We're trying to chase down people who hide and
move around in the dark corners of the world, and they plot and they
plan and then they pop up and kill. They don't care about innocent
life. And we're making progress. I mean, we are, slowly but surely,
dismantling the al Qaeda operational network.
But we've got a lot of work to do, which means we've got to continue
to work together to share information, cut off money, share
intelligence, and hunt these people down and get them before they get
us. And that's why I appreciate President Arroyo's leadership. She's
tough when it comes to terror. She fully understands that in the face
of terror you've got to be strong, not weak. She knows, like I know,
that the only way to deal with these people is to bring them to
justice. You can't talk to them, you can't negotiate with them, you
must find them. And that's precisely what our alliance is continuing
to do.
And so I'm pleased with progress we've made, but I will continue to
warn the American people, like I've been doing for a long time, that
this is still a dangerous world we live in. Clearly, the attacks in
Saudi Arabia mean that we've got to be on alert here at home, that
we've got to be diligent, that we've got to understand there's an al
Qaeda group still actively plotting to kill.
We're working on the clues out of Morocco to determine whether there's
a direct connection between that al Qaeda operation and what happened
in Morocco. Time will tell. But the world is dangerous, which means
that we've got to continue to renew these alliances and these
friendships to make sure that we make the world more secure.
PRESIDENT ARROYO: Well, there's been great progress in the war on
terror. But, certainly, it is not yet over. The al Qaeda and its
sister terrorist organizations are finding their way not only in
Africa, not only in the Middle East, but also in Southeast Asia. And
as we have seen, therefore, terrorism knows no borders. And that's why
while each country must take greater responsibility for its own
economic and political security, it is also important that we enhance
our regional and international cooperation in this war against
Q: Just to get direct quotes from both Presidents, I'd like to know
exactly how the war against terrorism has affected the U.S.-Philippine
relations, and how you intend to nurture this relationship beyond what
is military and for a more prolonged and sustained period.
PRESIDENT ARROYO: Well, as I said earlier, it's made the U.S. and the
Philippines closer to each other. And for me, because in the beginning
of my term, of my tenure, we were fighting a lonely fight against the
terrorists in southwestern Philippines. I felt that when we formed the
global coalition against terrorism, then we were no longer alone. The
world came to know how bad terrorism is, something we have known for a
long time. And the world came to help us, because in the international
coalition, we started to help one another.
I welcome the support of the world, and I welcome the support of the
U.S. in our war against terrorism.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Yes, I remember right after September the 11th,
President Arroyo called me, and there was no doubt in my mind where
she stood. It was more than the condolence call, it was a let's get
after them call. And I knew that we had -- I had a strong ally and
friend when it came to chasing these people down, which is precisely
what we have to do. And she knows that. And that's the strategy she's
And so you asked a question about what this war on terror has meant
for our relationship. First and foremost, it meant that I've got a
great deal of respect for your President, and her courage, and her
willingness to fight for security of the Philippine people, and to
defend freedom. And she is a great example of leadership in a part of
the world that is a dangerous part of the world.
As President Arroyo mentioned, not only are there, obviously, actions
around the Middle East, and not only do we have to make sure our own
homeland is secure, but Southeast Asia is a dangerous part of the
world, too. And the Philippines have witnessed this danger firsthand.
And we'll continue to work, at her request, along the guidelines that
are necessary in your constitution, to work for freedom and security.
Tom -- I mean, Steve -- excuse me.
Q: Are you going to put the Middle East road map on hold in the wake
of the latest bombings? Do you still have confidence in President
Abbas --
PRESIDENT BUSH: Yes, I've got confidence we can move the peace process
forward. But the bombings, the recent bombings -- I mean, Prime
Minister Sharon is fixing to come over here and, of course, there are
terrorists who want to disrupt the visit by bombing and killing. It's
clear there are people there that still cannot stand the thought of
peace. And, therefore, it reminds -- it gives me a chance to remind
people in the region, if you're interested in moving the peace
process, join us in fighting terror.
And I still believe that we need to -- not only believe, I will move
the process forward. But it is clear that the process is not going to
be smooth so long as terrorists kill. And it's a stark reminder that
there are killers who can't stand the thought of peace. And it's sad,
and it's pathetic. But -- and, therefore, we must all work together --
and I say we, those of us who care for peace, people in the
Palestinian Authority who care for peace must work with us to fight of
terror. People in Israel who care for peace will work with us to fight
The countries in the region that long for a peace process must
understand that what's more important than process is results, and
that we've got to work together to cut off the funding and the support
and activity of the terrorist killers who can't stand peace. Europe
must work with us to do everything we can to discourage the terrorist
activities that derail a process toward peace.
No, the road map still stands. The vision of two states existing side
by side in peace is a real vision, and one that I will work toward.
But we've got a lot of work to do to convince all of us who care about
peace to step up and fight off terror -- to cut off the money and to
find these people and bring them to justice.
No, we're still on the road to peace. It's just going to be a bumpy
road. And I'm not going to get off the road until we achieve the
PRESIDENT ARROYO: Well, the road to peace is really very difficult,
but it's very important that we cooperate. And in Southeast Asia, I
would like to say that, in addition, that if we are going to fight
terrorism successfully and achieve peace, what is important is that we
work on it together, and we have a comprehensive approach. Because
terrorism will spread like a contagion, it will spread like SARS, if
we don't address the poverty that represents the breeding grounds for
In the Philippines, terrorism thrives and gets its recruits, not
coincidentally, in the provinces that are the poorest, in the region
that is the poorest in our country. That is why I appreciate the
support of President Bush not only for the security assistance in the
war against terrorism, but also in the efforts to fight poverty and
the socio-economic ills that plague southern Philippines especially.
That is our road map to peace. Every region has its specific road map
to peace. We have some road maps in common; we have some that are
specific to us. But for our region, it is a comprehensive approach.
And I appreciate President Bush for understanding the comprehensive
approach and helping us through it.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Final question. Do you care to call on somebody, Madam
Q: I was about to ask about the economic side of it -- 
Q: -- but both of you have already spelled it out in details. Anyway,
Mr. President Bush mentioned, and please comment on this, Mrs.
President, about the non-NATO -- designate the Philippines as a
non-NATO status --
Q: -- and about the MILF -- your offer of assistance in the MILF
problem, because we have poverty problem there now.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Well, my offer of assistance, it depends upon the MLIF
choosing peace as a peaceful reconciliation of issues. If they
continue to want to use terror and force, we will be involved to the
extent that the President invites us to be involved, within the
constitution of the Philippine government.
And the other part of the question?
Q: Non-NATO status.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Non-NATO status, yes. That puts the Philippines right
up there with Australia, Egypt, Israel. These are major non-NATO
allies, which means it will be easier for us to answer requests on
military equipment; to provide parts and equipment to make sure that
the defense capabilities of the Philippine military are modern, and
the choppers fly, choppers are maintained, choppers move; when the
President orders up a strike, it happens quickly. All this does is
facilitate the capacity to interact with each other on a better basis,
on a priority basis.
Secondly, the other thing I talked about was a comprehensive review of
-- and that just means our military is going to be involved with your
military, the Philippine military, in such a way as to determine needs
and assess whether or not we've got the capacity to help meet those
Q: And the poverty problem?
PRESIDENT BUSH: And the poverty problem -- listen, this nation is
committed to dealing with poverty. First, let me make it very clear,
poor people aren't necessarily killers. Just because you happen to be
not rich doesn't mean you're willing to kill. And so it's important to
understand -- people are susceptible to the requirement by these
extremists, but I refuse to put a -- put killers into a demographic
category based upon income. After all, a lot of the top al Qaeda
people were comfortable middle-class citizens. And so one of the
things you've got to do is to make sure we distinguish between hate
and poverty.
Secondly, trade is an important aspect of helping to create the
conditions necessary for people to rise out of poverty. And we talked
about our trade relationship. A aspect of poverty is food, and we
talked about our Agricultural Departments working together for the
Food for Peace Program, and the interchange along that. In other
words, all up and down -- the energy we talked about -- all up and
down the different aspects of our society, we had meaningful
discussions. Not only in the Cabinet Room, but prior to this and after
this day, our Secretaries, respective Secretaries, will continue to
interact to create the conditions necessary for prosperity to reign.
The other thing that's important is the Philippine government must
also assume their responsibilities. And I was very impressed by the
discussions on tax reform. The President put out a bold initiative. I
was most pleased that the Speaker and the head of the Senate were here
in Washington, D.C., and they were very receptive, it seemed like to
me, to some of the tax proposals that the President laid out, to make
sure that the budget of the Philippine government is more efficient in
collecting the revenues due to the government. And so, in other words,
it's a comprehensive approach, and it's one we spent a lot of time
PRESIDENT ARROYO: With regard to poverty issue, I don't see poverty
only as a means to fight terrorism. Fighting poverty is an end in
itself. So I agree with President Bush, it's not poverty that causes
terrorism. Terrorism breeds on poverty, and poverty breeds on
terrorism. They reinforce each other. And that's why we must fight
them together.
And I came to Washington not just about terrorism, but fighting
poverty for its own -- for the sake of the fight. And I believe that
many of the things that we have worked on together are things that
fight poverty, and incidentally, fight terrorism. But even if there
were no terrorism, they certainly fight poverty. And I do the better
for our country.
For instance, the GSP privileges that we've been able to enjoy. Since
my last visit with President Bush, we've been able to have -- we've
been able to enjoy about a billion dollars a year, and again,
reinforced now in GSP privileges. And if we get to include things like
caragana in the GSP list, as we are negotiating now, that's going to
give a lot of work to all those people in the coastal areas of
Mindanao, especially the areas, which I said, are the poorest
provinces in our country.
And then another example of getting together in the fight against
poverty is working also on investments. And one of the things that we
talked about is -- and one of the things that we'll be getting --
getting together on would be more insurance, OPIC insurance for U.S.
investments in the Philippines. So that's going to create more jobs.
And President Bush talked about the remittances of our OFWs. I hope
that in three to six months a study can be done and our OFWs can be --
our overseas Filipinos can begin to send the remittances with these
reduced cost. And based on the Mexican experience, the costs can go
down by as much as $300 million a year. And that's going to provide a
lot of income to the Filipinos back home, and the commensurate jobs
that they can provide.
So all of these things are important in themselves. And incidentally,
they also help us to fight poverty -- poverty and terrorism at the
same time.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Thank you all very much.
(end transcript)
(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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