Esperon, Kenney on Abu Sayyaf, Sulu

Jan. 27, 2007

Transcript of the Remarks of Ambassador Kristie A. Kenney
and Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Gen. Hermogenes Esperon
at the Department of National Defense
January 18, 2007

Amb. Kenney:

How are you all today? Happy New Year!

Let me first of all say why I am here this morning for the meeting of the Philippine Defense Reform Executive Steering Committee. This is an important Philippine program and the United States is very proud and pleased to be a partner. This is a transformational program and it is a model not just in the Philippines, but for many other countries as well, where the military looks at the way it functions and makes sure it is thinking ahead so that it can face the challenges of today and the challenges of tomorrow.

Todays military is not like the one our fathers were in when they fought during World War II. The challenges are very different, and I think it is very exciting for all of us to see tremendous Philippine troops doing great, tremendous things in the war on terror to keep Filipinos and all the rest of us safe. We also see that the Department of National Defense is thinking ahead and looking at how you can keep the Philippine military doing what it needs to do to keep the people of the Philippines safe. Thank you all today for being here. Are there any questions I can answer?

Q: How big is the role of the U.S. Government in the implementation of Philippine Defense Reform?

A: Our role is as a supporting partner. Philippine Defense Reform is a Philippine project of the Philippine military in order to make the Philippine people safe. Obviously, as an allied nation, a safe Philippines is good for all the Americans who visit, live and work here. We are proud to be a partner, but this is designed for and by Filipinos.

Q: About Abu Solaiman – how do you intend to go about the reward system for that?

A: Let me first congratulate the Armed Forces of the Philippines. I have seen the Armed Forces of the Philippines in Jolo and they should make all of us very proud. They are a tremendous fighting force, and they are doing extraordinary things in capturing some of the worlds most deadly terrorists. So our strongest congratulations to the brave men and women of the Armed Forces of the Philippines who fight under tremendous leadership to keep the Philippines safe.

AFP Chief of Staff General Esperon: And as our troops in Jolo would say, of course their constant exposure to exercises in Balikatan certainly helps the maintenance of the kind of skills our forces have. That is what we get from Balikatan constant training, upgraded skills, and even some of the equipment.

Amb. Kenney: It is obvious that the efforts going on in Jolo, as General Esperon said, are the result of extraordinary training on the part of Philippine troops, and I am very proud that American forces have been here training, learning, sharing ideas, advising and assisting. This is a tremendous partnership. But I do want to emphasize that an international terrorist was killed thanks to the talent of Philippine troops. And you asked about the Rewards for Justice – that is the next step, which is a little bit more complicated. We will be working on that with Philippine authorities, and that may take a little longer as we sort out the where, how and what.

Q: Ma’am, did you finalize the resumption of the Balikatan training in Luzon?

A: We are very pleased and proud to continue to be a partner of the Philippine military. Our Balikatan exercises will go on. They are going to have a very special focus on the humanitarian side. As you look at the great work being done by Philippine troops and the role our troops play in learning from and working with Philippine troops, there is a great role our militaries have in making peoples lives safer and in offering people the benefits of security. So we are going to be working together not only to learn from each other, but together we build roads and repair schools that make the lives of the people who live in a difficult part of the country peaceful and prosperous as they should be.

I think 2007 is going to be a wonderful year here in the Philippines. It is going to be the year that the Philippines not only hosts terrific summits and takes a leadership role in the region, but this will also be the year in which great strides are made — not only in the war on terrorism, but also great strides forward in bringing peace and prosperity to the people of the Philippines. I will add that this is good for the United States of America. Not only do our troops benefit from working with the Philippine Armed Forces, but our people benefit. A prosperous, safe Philippines is a great place for my countrymen to visit, a great place to do business. It means more Filipinos who visit the United States and buy our goods it is good for everyone.

Q: How big was the role of the U.S. Government in the latest success?

A: The latest success was Philippine troops. We played a role that the General can talk about more. But certainly we advise, assist, we share intelligence information, and on a broader scale our troops have been training together to think about how do you capture tough-to-find terrorists in todays world. Those of you who have been to Jolo know this is really tough terrain. It is mountainous, it is forested. This latest operation, as the General was telling us, was conducted at night in a driving rain storm. These are the kind of things our troops train for, and they are not easy, but they were the result of extraordinary intensive training, preparation, good equipment, good intelligence sharing, and good planning.

Thanks to all of you with us here today. Thank you for your interest and I wish you a happy new year.

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