GMA CITES BALLOONING U.S. AID FOR RP

MANILA, March 13, 2004
 
(STAR) President Arroyo said yesterday that a continuously growing military assistance of $400 million from a measly $1.9 million three years ago, a safer community, and an additional construction of schools, public clinics and hospitals are just some of the "blessings to the country" of a strong relationship of the Philippines with the United States.

In her speech during the ongoing joint RP-US Balikatan 2004 in Palawan, Mrs. Arroyo said the country’s economic and security relationship with the US totaled to at least $6 billion including the mounting military assistance and hefty American investments.

"When I first became President in 2001, I inherited a commitment of military assistance from the US of $1.9 million only… when our relationship with US was not yet good. Today, that American assistance to our military support is now $400 million and still counting," she said.

Mrs. Arroyo added that there is more to come because the Philippines has been declared by the US as a major "non-NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) ally," giving it priority access to American military aid and hardware.

She also said the Philippines ranks first in Southeast Asia and fourth in the world among the beneficiaries of US military funding.

The President, however, said these blessings which she referred to as "downpayment of her administration" were achieved and can only be continued through a good foreign policy made up of two friends who are tied up by mutual interest and not by a relationship of dependency.

"That’s why, my friends, let us not waste these downpayment that I made during my administration. There will be more blessings to come to Palawan if we continue this good foreign policy that I started and if we do not alter this in the coming years," she maintained.

Mrs. Arroyo also recalled the progress established in the Basilan province as a result of the joint RP-US military exercises that was held there. She said new schools, an airport, circumferential road, hospitals and a pump priming businesses were established because of the Balikatan exercises.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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