RP READY TO DEPLOY AIR MARSHALLS ON PAL FLIGHTS TO U.S.

MANILA, January 3, 2004 (STAR) The Philippines is ready to deploy air marshals on Philippine Airlines (PAL) flights to the United States but wants reciprocal treatment, President Arroyo announced yesterday.

"We are prepared to deploy air marshals in PAL planes entering US territory as requested, on the basis of reciprocity," Mrs. Arroyo said, adding that she wanted US flights to the country also "similarly covered so that we can have a two-way system to check terrorist incursions."

"This is important for the safety of our own nationals as well as foreign travelers and is part of our commitment to the global fight against terror," Mrs. Arroyo added.

The Philippines will continue to provide "seamless security" to air travelers on both the ground and the air," she added.

Mrs. Arroyo had ordered resigned National Security Adviser Roilo Golez to make arrangements for the deployment of marshals on Philippine and US flights.

Her statement came after Washington on Monday issued an emergency directive asking all foreign carriers to place armed sky marshals on flights deemed by US officials to be at risk of possible terror attack.

The Philippines has been one of the firmest Asian allies in the US-led war against terrorism and US military assistance has helped beef up local counterterrorism capabilities.

Regional terror group Jemaah Islamiyah and the al-Qaeda terrorist network as well as their local allies are known to be active in the Philippines.

Authorities are hunting down Jemaah Islamiyah operatives who are believed to be hiding in Mindanao. Marichu Villanueva, AFP


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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