Adan: US military presence is “beneficial to our people”

Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews
Sunday, 28 September 2008 20:19
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DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/27 September) – The executive director of the Presidential Commission on the Visiting Forces Agreement says the presence of US troops in the Philippine is “beneficial to our people,” citing in dollars and cents the benefits.

Contrary to reports of alleged basing by the US military, Adan said, “we believe that it is through the Visiting Forces Agreement that our country can better protect its sovereignty as it lives up to its obligations under the Mutual Defense Treaty with the United States.

The American soldiers, Adan told the Legislative Oversight Committee on the Visiting Forces Agreement Thursday at the Senate’s Pecson Room in Pasay City, are “like guests who lend assistance to repair a house and were invited by the host owner to stay and live with them for the duration of the project very much in the traditional spirit of Bayanihan.”

“Necessarily, the owners have to offer them space to sleep, work and eat, they need some privacy. In the process, they will leave marks on the floor, cause the rearrangement of furniture, and leave some footprints. The footprints of these visitors are big. Because they have big planes, big ships. The host children may complain about these discomforts. However, these are minor and tolerable,’’ he said.

Adan concluded by saying the VFA “continues to serve the national interest, is beneficial to our people and is conducted with due regard to Philippine laws.”

From the first to third quarter this year, the Philippines has already benefited from two million US dollars’ worth of American medical civic actions programs (medcaps), 165,000 US dollars’ worth of engineering and civic action programs (encaps).

Adan cited the 400 helicopter sorties by the US Air Force to assist in search and rescue and delivery of 300 tons of food in Panay Island, then devastated by Typhoon Frank.

Adan said the American soldiers number from “400 to 600 at any one time or less than the size of an Army battalion.”

He said 25,000 persons have benefited from medical civic action programs in Central Mindanao, Western Samar and Palawan and that in Sulu and Tawi-tawi, 390 projects have been done, including road repairs, building of classrooms and that these have “greatly contributed to the quest for peace in the province.”

The US government has allocated 16 million US dollars as military assistance for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in 2007 and 3.6 million US dollars for 2008.

Local communities, he said, are also earning. Zamboanga City earns an average of “5.5 million pesos every six months in employment and supply contracts on account of the US military presence.”

Adan enumerated four implementing guidelines on the US troops’ presence: that no US troops shall be engaged in combat operations; the Armed Forces of the Philippines commander shall have control over operations all the time; that ownership of facilities temporarily used by US troops will remain with the Armed Forces of the Philippines; and that US troops can only use weapons in self-defense.

Adan also noted that what is “difficult to quantify” is when an Army commander in

Cotabato last August asked a US mobile training team to help recover and disarm an unexploded bomb dropped by the Philippine Air Force.

“In saving the lives of Filipinos who were potentially endangered from the bomb, the American bomb experts risked their lives as well together with our brave Filipino soldiers in neutralizing the bomb,” Adan said.

Asked after the hearing who actually asked for assistance, Adan said “the commander in the area.”

When MindaNews told him the Army commander there said he had “no idea” about the operations, Adan said it must have been “the commander from the EOD.”

MindaNews asked Lt. Col. Diosdado Carreon, commanding officer of the Army’s 40th Infantry Battalion, on August 17, the day the US-RP team detonated the bomb, if he sought the assistance of American soldiers to look for unexploded ordnance or unexploded bombs and he said, “no idea.”

He said the Army Division had control over the EOD.

A soldier who identified himself as Lt. Hermosura, intelligence officer of the 40th IB, asked the MindaNews team and the other soldiers and paramilitary elements to vacate the area as the bomb would be detonated.

MindaNews chanced upon the US-RP team searching for unexploded bombs in Barangay Baliki, Midsayap, North Cotabato on August 17.

August 17 was a Sunday and MindaNews went to the interior parts where armed clashes were fierce days earlier, to look for the area where houses were reportedly burned, when the MindaNews team chanced upon the US-RP team.

Carreon, commanding officer of the Army’s 40th Infantry Battalion, had told MindaNews early that morning that the area had been “cleared.”

As it turned out, it wasn’t really “cleared” as the US-RP team was still looking for bombs.

Fortunately for the US-RP team, very few of the evacuees, who were already advised by their mayors and barangay captains to return home as the area had been “cleared” by the military, had actually returned home. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)


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