Philippine president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will meet with President George W. Bush and key US Cabinet officials inWashington tomorrow. Elected as vice president, Arroyo was swept into power in January in a popular revolt againstformer President Joseph Estrada.
Macapagal and US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld are expected to discuss the details of a proposedhardware-for-access agreement when they meet this week, according to the US State Department. Sources say the dealwould virtually restore the US government’s rights to maintain military bases and troops here.
Under the proposed agreement, the Philippines will receive military hardware and supplies in exchange for US accessto its former military bases as well as the transit and short-term stay of its personnel. There has been strongFilipino opposition to the US Military Bases Agreement that allowed the United States to operate military bases andstation troops in the Philippines. The Philippine government says such an agreement would not be possible because theConstitution prohibits foreign troops in the country.
Arroyo’s government was among the first in Asia to sign up for Bush’s global anti-terrorism campaign, offering use ofits air space and ground facilities. U.S. military advisers have been deployed to the Philippines to help fight theAbu Sayyaf, a Muslim extremist group in a southern Philippine region with suspected ties to Osama bin Laden.
Arroyo says she is trying to professionalize the police and armed forces to deal more effectively with the Abu Sayyafand terrorists suspected of using the Philippines as a base of operations, she said. Her government has begunaccepting only college graduates into the police ranks, she said.
Arroyo has also expressed interest in having the FBI train Philippine police units. Her government is negotiating apeace agreement with another rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
She also has initiated a trilateral agreement among the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia in hopes of improvingsecurity in that corner of Southeast Asia, where the Abu Sayyaf, smugglers and pirates all pose problems.
Yesterday a coalition of more than 15 organizations gathered outside the Philippine consulate in New York to greetPhilippine president with the demand that the Philippines not join the US-led “International Coalition AgainstTerrorism.”
- Jane Orindine, Filipino activist.
- Dave Pugh, member of the Network in Support of the People of the Philippines.