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US shifts aid focus from drug war to sea safety

THE United States on Wednesday decided to shift its police assistance program in the Philippines from anti-narcotics to maritime security, the US State Department announced in Washington.

State Department spokesman John Kirby admitted that the realigning of the assistance was made due to his governments deep concern over the increase of alleged extrajudicial killings “by or at the behest” of the Philippine government.

“Since the beginning of this counternarcotics campaign, we decided the prudent thing to do was to refocus the way that assistance was being spent,” Kirby told the reporters during a daily press briefing.

State Department spokesman John Kirby. Photo of en.wikipedia.org
Kirby said the US will give the Philippines some $180 million to security forces from Oct. 1, 2016 to Sept. 30, 2017 while $5 million of that amount had been intended for Philippine law enforcement efforts.

But in early September, the US transferred $4 million into maritime law enforcement, particularly to the Philippine Coast Guard and Bureau of Fisheries, while half a million dollars will go to human rights and internal reform efforts.

Kirby said State Department-funded training aims to transform the Philippine National Police into a modern, sustainable, democratic police force capable of effectively providing internal security in difficult conditions while demonstrating respect for democratic principles and human rights.

“We remain deeply concerned by reports of extrajudicial killings by or at the behest of government authorities in the Philippines,” he reiterated.

Since the start of the drug campaign, he said, Philippine law enforcement assistance has been refocused away from narcotics control to supporting maritime security efforts and to providing human rights training to the PNP.

“Our assistance programs expand Philippine capacity to conduct effective, lawful investigations and professionalizes the criminal justice system so that it is more accountable, transparent, effective, and just” Kirby said.

He also note that the US vigorously vets all units and individuals before providing assistance to the security forces of the Philippines “as we do elsewhere around the world.” 

In August, the US announced that the $32-million assistance to promote human rights and security is now subject to “rigorous vetting,” calling the Philippines to observe the rule of law and due process on its campaign against drugs.

The US on International Narcotics and Law also allotted at least $6.7 million or P320-million assistance to boost law enforcement in the Philippines.

The $6.7-million assistance in law enforcement aid pledge, however, may be diverted to other countries if both Manila and Washington failed to agree on how it will be used.

Topics: John Kirby , United States , Police assistance program , Philippines , Anti-narcotics , Maritime security , Extrajudicial killings , Philippine government , Philippine Coast Guard , Bureau of Fisheries
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