MALACANANG, October 13, 2003  (OPS) The creation of the Task Force for the Security of Critical Infrastructures (TFSCI) has no connection with the visit of US President George W. Bush, Malacañang said today.

"This is an ongoing concern and it was only by chance that the announcement came with the coming of President Bush," Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye clarified this morning over radio.

The Task Force will go on with its job even after Bush has left, Bunye added.

The creation of the Task Force took effect Sept. 16 in line with President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s 16-point Counter-Terrorism Program. It will report to the Cabinet Oversight Committee on Internal Security (COCIS).

Its primary responsibility is to implement a comprehensive and integrated security measure for the country’s critical infrastructures against terrorist attacks and enlist the active coordination and collaboration of concerned government agencies and the private sector and the dynamic participation of the Filipino people.

These critical structures include power plants, power transmission and distribution facilities, oil and gas depots, key public works infrastructures, public and private buildings and facilities in the nerve center of commerce and industry.

Named to head the TFSCI was Presidential Adviser for Special Concerns Undersecretary Abraham Purugganan.

Bunye also denied reports that Malacañang is spending P55 million for the eight-hour visit of Bush on Oct. 18.

They are just sprucing up the buildings and the grounds in Malacañang, he said.

RP gets massive U.S. military aid as major non-NATO ally

In line with the theme – "New Partnership for Peace and Development" -- of the state visit to the Philippines by United States President George W. Bush this week the Philippines now enjoys an unprecedented level of relationship with the United States.

President Bush, who is scheduled to arrive in Manila on Saturday (October 18, 2003), has designated the Philippines as a Major non-NATO ally of the world’s most powerful country in the world.

As a major U.S. ally outside the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the Philippines is now in the same privileged league as Australia, Japan, Israel and Egypt.

The designation of Major non-NATO ally does not just bestow on the Philippines an honorific title. In President Bush’s own words, the Philippines, by being a Major non-NATO ally, will be allowed to work together with the United States on military research and development. Equally important, it will give the Philippines greater access to American defense equipment and supplies and, thus, broaden the foundations of strategic partnership between the two countries.

Further strengthening and enhancement of the Philippines-US. relations is considered as one of the major achievements in the diplomatic field under President Macapagal-Arroyo’s watch.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was the first world leader to declare full support for President Bush’s call for a global coalition against terrorism after the September 11, 2001, attack on the World Trade Twin Towers in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.

When President Macapagal-Arroyo made a state visit to Washington on May 16-19, 2002, she was not only received warmly by President Bush and the American people, but also brought home a big package of military aid for the Philippines.

In the joint statement on the state visit, President Bush pledged to President Macapagal-Arroyo the following:

$30 million in new grant aid for equipment and training of Armed Forces of the Philippines targeted at capabilities for countering terrorist groups within the Philippines;

$30 million in new bilateral development assistance for Mindanao and support for the peace process with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) as appropriate; and

$25 million in new grant assistance to train and euip a combat engineering unit and provide other military needs in the war on terror. The engineering unit will be able to do civic action and humanitarian projects in conflict zones.

In addition, the U.S. government has also pledged to make available to the Philippine Air Force 20 UH-lH helicopters, along with funding for their refurbishment and for transporting them to Manila, and Ci30 cargo planes. An additional 10 UH-H helicopters are also to be provided to ensure sufficient spare parts.

The U.S. will also provide new rifles to replace old inventories in the AFP armories.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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