GMA TO OPEN RP-US BALIKATAN EXERCISES IN PALAWAN STARTING MONDAY

MALACANANG, February 18, 2004
(OPS) President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will formally open this year’s Balikatan joint military training exercise to be held in Palawan starting Monday.

The President herself made the announcement during a press conference held this afternoon at the Presidential Security Guard Conference Room in Malacanang Park.

"The Balikatan will be held in Palawan upon the request of the people of Palawan," she said. "So we will go there on the 23rd to open the Balikatan."

As in past Balikatan exercises held in Central Luzon, Basilan and Zamboanga City, the exercise will form part of the Philippines’ overall and ongoing defense and security cooperation activities with the United States, which continue to focus on increasing the country’s ability to protect itself against terrorist threats.

It will be conducted in accordance with the Constitution and laws of the Philippines.

Likewise, consultations will be held with local government officials with the end in view of ensuring the safety and welfare of civilians during the exercise.

As in previous Balikatans, the introduction of civic humanitarian projects especially in the field of basic health services, will be a significant component of the exercise.

It is widely acknowledged that the training, advice, and assistance the Armed Forces got in Basilan were critical factors that led to the defeat of the Abu Sayyaf in Basilan and the restoration of order and the full reestablishment of government services in the province.

Malacanang said training activities will be coordinated with the provincial government of Palawan so that communities involved will be properly informed. It also assured that the training exercises would not displace peaceful communities.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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