The United States will contribute $26 million or more than P1.4 billion to bankroll the implementation of so-called “non-military rule-of-law” programs for the next two years intended to address terrorist threats in the country.
US Ambassador to Manila Sung Kim said the US assistance aims to enhance the counterterrorism support for the country’s law enforcement agencies.
“I am proud to announce that the United States will contribute $26.5 million or P1.418 billion over the next two years to boost counterterrorism support for Philippine law enforcement agencies,” Kim said, in a statement released by the embassy.
“Our joint efforts to confront shared threats to the peace and security of both of our countries is another powerful example of the depth and breath of our relationship as friends, partners, and allies,” Kim added.
According to Kim, the assistance will include training, equipment, and other support to build comprehensive law enforcement capacity within a rule of law framework to deny terrorist operations, funding, and movement; investigate and prosecute terrorism cases, and counter-radicalization to violence and violent extremism.
“This support for non-military rule-of-law approaches to addressing terrorist threats will complement our sustained commitment to building the counterterrorism capabilities of the Armed Forces of the Philippines,” the US official said.
Despite President Rodrigo Duterte’s adoption of “independent foreign policy” which lessens Manila’s dependence on Washington, the American government vowed to continue to provide its all-out support to the country’s counterterrorism.
“The United States is a proud ally of the Philippines and will continue to provide whole-of-government support and assistance to Philippine counterterrorism efforts as we work together to address shared threats to the peace and security of both of our countries,” the US envoy said.
Meanwhile, the US Embassy and the Philippine National Police Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) have collaborated for the holding of a Regional Student Leadership Symposium focused on countering violent extremism on June 23 and 24 in Manila.
The US Embassy in Manila has supported the program since 2015.
US Army Capt. Robert Barnes and Sgt. Luke Wernette of the Embassy’s Military Information Support Team, who helped manage the program and assisted the PNP-SAF in planning the symposium, said the symposium is part of both countries’ awareness campaign on counterterrorism and to protect our Filipino youth from the dangers of extremism and terrorism.
“The PNP-SAF’s engagement with communities and universities on counter-radicalization has been instrumental to the Republic of the Philippines’ whole-of-nation approach to countering violent extremism,” Barnes said, in a separate statement released by the US Embassy last week.
The symposium drew diverse participants from around the region, including university students from across western Mindanao, senior research faculty from the University of Indonesia, students from the University of Tun Abdul Razak in Malaysia, representatives from the Philippines Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, the president of the Imam Council of the Philippines, the Deputy Director of the PNP-SAF Police Chief Superintendent Dennis Basgni, retired Police Commissioner Felizardo Serapio Jr., and the PNP-SAF’s 1st and 5th Special Action Battalions (1SAB and 5SAB), who arranged the symposium.
“The connection and level of trust established by the 1st and 5th Special Action Battalions with the youth of their communities have been eye opening and should serve as an effective model for the local implementation of counter-terrorism programs,” Barnes added.
Meanwhile, the Palace played down possible sanctions by the US for the possible purchase of grenade launchers from a blacklisted Russian company because the Philippines is not bound by US domestic law.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the Philippines is a sovereign state and is free to enter into contracts as it pleases.
“We are not bound by any domestic law particularly where the transaction will not occur in US soil,” Roque said after the US reportedly imposed sanctions on countries that bought military hardware from Russia.
The Philippines had agreed in October 2016 to purchase $7.48 million or P400 million worth of 750 RPG-7B rocket-propelled grenade launchers from Russia’s state-owned Rosoboronexport. With Francisco Tuyay and Vito Barcelo