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 You are in: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice > Former Secretaries of State > Former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell > Speeches and Remarks > 2002 > August

Joint Press Conference With Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Blas F. Ople

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Manila, Philippines
August 3, 2002

PRESS SECRETARY BUNYE: Good morning once again. We will hear the statement of Foreign Affairs Secretary Blas F. Ople.

SECRETARY OPLE:  Thank you, Secretary Bunye.  Good morning ladies and gentlemen.  We have just completed over an hour of what seems to me very productive talks between us and Secretary of State Colin Powell on a wide range of issues of direct interest and importance to both our countries.  Secretary Powell and I started today with a short meeting after Secretary Powell called on the president.  This was followed by a larger group meeting between our two delegations.

These talks were in the nature of free and open discussions among old friends on ways to further improve our relationship and how best to face current and future challenges as strategic partners.  The president also expressed appreciation to the United States for its efforts and contribution towards the success of our strategic partnership.  The president raised several issues with Secretary Powell including trade, financing, development cooperation and tourism issues.  The president also raised issues relating to our World War II Filipino veterans and to our Filipinos in the United States.  The global war against terrorism, the partnership between our two countries in this world, the regional and global efforts against terrorism were also discussed.  The president cited in particular the central role played by Secretary Powell in the successful adoption last August 1 in Brunei of the ASEAN U.S. Joint Declaration for cooperation to combat international terrorism. The president also pointed to the successful conclusion of Balikatan 02-1 and that there are very many valuable lessons learned by both our militaries that can have much value to future exercises between our two countries. 

There were no discussions in the proposed Mutual Logistics Support Agreement.  Our talk with Secretary Powell confirms my own impressions of a reinvigorated relationship between our two countries, motivated by mutual interest and a common desire to do our part to help peace, stability and progress to the world.

The challenge now is to bring the momentum generated by our strengthened security and defense cooperation relationship to bear on other aspects of our relationship.  I believe that today’s talks were an important step in that direction.  Thank you.

SECRETARY POWELL:  Thank very much, Mr. Secretary.  I am very pleased to be back in the Philippines and very pleased to just have a successful conversation with the president reviewing a full range of issues that exist between our two countries.

I believe it is very fitting that Manila is the capstone of my visit to Southeast Asia because the alliance between the United States and the Philippines has been a bulwark of freedom and stability in the Asian-Pacific region. 

Sixty years ago, our soldiers fought together in the Battle of Bataan.  Today, we stand shoulder-to-shoulder again in the fight against terrorism.  Last November, President Bush expressed his heartfelt appreciation to President Arroyo for the Philippines principled and courageous stand against terror.  We applaud the Philippines role in forging the May 2002 Trilateral Cooperation Agreement with Indonesia and Malaysia.  As Filipinos know only too well, terrorism threatens every country, every continent.  The United States is impressed by the Philippine Army successes against the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group.  These (inaudible) have significantly reduced Abu Sayyaf's operational ability even as we mourn Abu Sayyaf’s victims.  Many Filipino soldiers have given their lives in the fight against Abu Sayyaf and in the effort to secure the safe release of hostages.  We honor their bravery and their sacrifice. 

The United States is proud that our armed forces are helping to train and equip their Philippine Army counterparts to combat terrorists here in the Philippines.  On July 31 as was noted, Exercise Balikatan successfully concluded.  Our excellent cooperation with the Philippines will continue on the civilian as well as military side.  One important avenue is our ongoing development assistance programs.  We are devoting over $100 million this year in such areas as law enforcement, judiciary, the rule of law and education.  All of this supports President Arroyo’s war on poverty.

We also remain strongly committed to our development programs to foster a lasting peace in Mindanao.  We support American investment and President Arroyo’s efforts for a strong (inaudible) campaign that sets the stage for economic activity that can really make a difference in Mindanao and elsewhere in the country. 

As our friend and ally, the Philippines continues its determined course toward security and prosperity and it can count on America’s enduring partnership and support.

Thank you very much.


QUESTION:  I would like to congratulate you first for a well-applauded, well-practiced song number in Brunei.  (Laughter)


QUESTION:  Anyway, even as we acknowledged you have not touched upon MLSA, we received reports that the U.S. has provided for the Philippines $55 million for the anti-terror campaign and there are suspicions though that this might be tied up with the signing of MLSA.  May we know exactly what are the terms of this $55 million anti-terror fund coming from the U.S. government?  And when it’s coming?

SECRETARY POWELL:  We are very pleased that we were able to provide $55 million in the supplemental and we will now work out the arrangements as to how that money will be spent and what accounts it will be provided.  I do not believe it will be in any way affected by the discussions with respect to the logistics agreement.  The logistics agreement we view as a fairly routine arrangement that is worked out between the defense departments and we did not discuss it this morning in our meetings and I assume that in due course will be worked out between the two militaries.

QUESTION:  Is this -- $55 million over and above the $100 million assistance you mentioned a while ago?

SECRETARY POWELL:  Yes, it is a supplemental that is in the 2002 supplemental.  There are other funds for a variety of programs in the Philippines, both in our 2002 and 2003 budget.  We can provide our fact sheet that lays out all of the programs.  The significant thing, though, is that the amount of support the United States is providing to the Philippines, both in terms of military support, in terms of development assistance, is being significantly increased and we hope that will remain the case for several years to come. 

As the president and I discussed earlier, there is a new program coming along called the Millennium Challenge account where the United States will make available to those nations who qualify for this assistance -- infrastructure money that will go to build roads, education systems, assist countries to develop the infrastructure they need to attract more trade and more investment.  I am quite sure that the Philippines will be a prime candidate for support under the Millennium Challenge account.  That will be a couple of years in the future but it too will be on top of all the other support we are doing.

QUESTION:  For Secretary Powell.  Mr. Secretary, you said almost a year ago that you would launch a war against terrorism to rout out terrorists wherever they maybe.  You’ve now visited six Southeast Asian countries, which of course have been a focal point of terrorist activities.  Is there anyway you can evaluate how the war is going after all this time -- whether the American people and people elsewhere can feel safer?

SECRETARY POWELL:  I think it is going very well.  We saw what happened in Afghanistan with the destruction of the Taliban, which was harboring Al-Qaida.  Al-Qaida is on the run.  They are hiding. They are still a danger to the world and we are going to continue to rout them out.  President Bush made it clear from the very beginning that this is a campaign that will not be concluded in a few weeks or a few months or even a year or two.  It is going to take a long time.  In order to get these terrorists, not only in Al-Qaida, but in other terrorist organizations such as Abu Sayyaf, we have to work with our friends and allies.  We have to connect our intelligence systems, connect our law enforcement systems, look at the financial transactions that these terrorist groups use to sustain themselves. 

In that regard, I am very pleased with what we have been able to do with nations around the world especially here in Southeast Asia and the political declaration that we signed in Brunei the other day -- ASEAN and the U.S. -- is further evidence that everybody who recognizes the danger knows we have to work together, knows that we have to build capacity to work together, and we have to focus not just on combat operations -- although that is important -- but law enforcement operations, intelligence information and operations and getting inside their financial systems.

 I am very pleased with the level of cooperation we are receiving and I think we are making progress.  People are being picked up around the world who if they hadn’t been picked up would be well on their way to conducting a terrorist act.  A number of nations in Southeast Asia have made important apprehensions in recent weeks.

QUESTION:  Good morning, Mr. Secretary.  I know that the MLSA was not part of the discussions today, but it seems that everybody has that on their minds especially the militants who are out demonstrating against your visit.  It seems that there’s a lot of suspicion about what the MLSA really is about and perhaps your visit here might help clarify to them what kind of benefit the Philippines in particular would get from this agreement and how much different it would be from the ACSA that was proposed back in the 90’s but was not passed because of opposition to it.

SECRETARY POWELL:  The MLSA is essentially just administrative arrangements between the two parties, a servicing agreement.  It is usually negotiated and dealt with at a fairly middle-level, management level, within our Department of Defense and doesn’t usually come to this level of attention or interest.  But I know it is a matter of great interest here in the Philippines, and I hope that once our Department of Defense people working with the Armed Forces of the Philippines have a chance to explain what is in it and how it benefits both sides, the Philippine people will understand that there is nothing mysterious about it.  It is not an effort to insert ourselves in any way into the Philippines that would be troubling anyone.  It doesn’t deal with that at all.  It is strictly a set of arrangements between the two sides for a logistical support and accountability. 

QUESTION:  Mr. Secretary, I wonder if you could reflect to us all on the problem the Middle East still represents to your war on terrorism.  You’re in this part of the world but the real violence is happening somewhere else.  And could you talk about some of the conversations you’ve had during your visit?  Have people been consistently raising their concerns about the violence there?

SECRETARY POWELL:  Well, yes.  Everybody is concerned about the violence in the Middle East.  It isn’t just restricted to the nations in the Middle East plus the United States.  I think everywhere I have gone it is been a subject of discussion.  Everybody hopes that we could find a way forward to peace.  Everybody sees these terrible images on their television sets, innocent lives being lost.  We condemn those terrorist attacks and we mourn for those who have lost their lives, but we can’t give up.  We can’t walk away from it.  We must continue to find a path forward.  That is what the United States is committed to.  That is what President Bush has committed his Administration to.  And so we continue to meet with Arab friends.  We continue to meet with our Israeli friends, and I hope next week I will be able to meet with some Palestinian leaders who have been given the authority to work with us, and we will not give up on our quest for peace.

I have made this point at all of my stops this week, and I have gotten support for those efforts.  Everybody recognizes how difficult a challenge it is, but everybody is supporting the United States in its effort to find a way forward to create a Palestinian state that can live side by side in peace with the state of Israel.

QUESTION:  Good morning, Mr. Secretary.   My question has something to do with the plight of the overseas Filipinos being repatriated back here in the Philippines.  What commitment, assurances you give to President Arroyo on the so-called humane treatment?

SECRETARY POWELL:  I want to make sure I understood the question  -- to come back --

QUESTION:  Overseas Filipino workers.  Illegal residents. 

SECRETARY POWELL:  I’m not sure I understood what you --

QUESTION:  For the so-called humane treatment for the Filipinos being repatriated back here in the Philippines.


QUESTION:  Yes, deportation.

SECRETARY POWELL:  We understand that this is a sensitive issue for the Philippine people.  I will go back with a message for my colleagues in the departments of the United States government that worry about this issue and let them know that even though we must follow our own laws with respect to deportations, and deportations must occur, we have to do it in a way that is dignified, and is sensitive to the feelings of the people being deported, as well as sensitive to the feelings of the Philippine people. 

QUESTION:  How about on reports that the Philippines will remain as a theater of operation in East Asia for the global campaign against terrorism?

SECRETARY POWELL:  The Philippines is an important nation in the sense of making a positive contribution in the global war against terrorism both in terms of the agreement that President Arroyo entered into with Indonesia and Malaysia and the support they gave to us in coming up with the ASEAN plus U.S. declaration in Brunei; as well as everything we have been doing with respect to Balikatan and going after Abu Sayyaf.

The Philippines has been in the forefront of leadership in Southeast Asia with respect to the global war against terrorism.  I have found support throughout Southeast Asia for this campaign because there is not a nation in Southeast Asia which has not at one time or another -- or today -- been under the threat of terrorism.  The message I wanted to give to all of them and especially to the Philippines is that the United States is united with you but we see it as more than just counterterrorism, more than just military to military, but a broader relationship that also focuses on economic development, development assistance, trade, poverty elimination, educational activities, everything we can do to strengthen democracy throughout Southeast Asia, and especially to help leaders such as President Arroyo who are taking bold, strong stances for democracy.  We want to be seen as standing alongside her and other leaders like her.

QUESTION:            I have a question for the Minister.  Sir, I think it’s fairly clear to most people what the U.S. would get out of a future military presence in the Philippines.  But what is it that your government sees, if you do see as a positive, in having some kind of a U.S. military presence in your country?  Thank you.

SECRETARY OPLE:  Yes.  The Balikatan 02-1 exercises in Basilan certainly do not conclude the training exercises between the forces of the United States and the Philippines.  It’s just a beginning.  The Visiting Forces Agreement of 1999 and the Mutual Defense Treaty of 1951 spell out the political framework for these exercises and already we see some exercises going on in Central Luzon, different from the exercises in Mindanao, in the sense that this is merely a continuation of all the existing patterns of exercises designed to enhance the inter-operability of the two forces in doctrines and equipment, in personnel, and even in world views, I suppose, to prepare them for a collective response in the event that there is a threat that must be met in the future in this part of the world.

SECRETARY POWELL:  May I add a P.S. to that?  In the way the question was phrased, there was something of a presumption that the United States might see a benefit of a presence in the Philippines suggesting that we are looking for some kind of permanent presence or going back to where we were previously.  Not the case.  Everything we are doing is consistent to the Mutual Defense Treaty, the Visiting Forces Agreement of 1999.  We are here to train with our Philippine friends, to help them as appropriate, but the Untied States is not looking for bases or new permanent presence in the Philippines or in this part of the world.

 Thank you very much.                                

10:55 a.m.

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