The United States government on Monday formally turned over a package of precision-guided missiles valued at $18 million to the Philippine government aimed at helping the Armed Forces of the Philippines strengthen its anti-terrorism capabilities, particularly in combatting ISIS-inspired extremism in Mindanao.
In a turnover ceremony at the Department of Foreign Affairs, visiting US National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien announced the transfer of defense articles, which consisted of a package of precision-guided anti-tank missiles, including 100 TOW-2A missiles, 12 ITAS, and 24 MK-82s to the AFP.
“This transfer underscores our strong and enduring commitment to our critical alliance. We hope these precision-guided missiles and munitions will help the AFP protect Philippine lives in Mindanao and end the needless suffering imposed by ISIS East Asia,” O’Brien told Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. and other defense officials who witnessed the formal transfer of the US anti-tank missiles and munitions.
AFP spokesperson Major General Edgard Arevalo said in a statement: “We may have been successful in counter-terrorism operations—most notably in Marawi —with ordinary munitions fitted in our legacy aircraft.
But with the advent of these missiles and munitions, we are certain that they will greatly boost our campaigns and contribute to the global drive to fight and defeat terrorists.”
O’Brien said the US, which has been at the forefront in the fight against ISIS, had been providing technical assistance and enemy surveillance to the Philippine military in battling terrorists.
“Now, President Trump is standing with President Duterte as we combat ISIS here in Southeast Asia,” said O’Brien, who handed to Locsin a letter from President Trump “making the transfer of these systems available.”
For his part, Locsin said the new weapons were a fulfillment of a promise made by President Donald Trump to President Rodrigo Duterte during their phone call in April.
“This gesture reflects our strategic alignment of interests and our shared aspirations for enduring peace and stability for both our countries and the greater region. It is demonstrative of President Trump’s staunch support for the Philippines to counter both internal and external security threats and emblematic of our two leaders’ trust in each other,” he said.
“We look forward to training on the use of these weapons with the best and undisputed military power in the world. The only one in history selflessly dedicated to the freedom and independence of other countries wherever threatened in the world,” Locsin added.
The DFA chief said the defense articles will boost the Philippine military’s capability “in neutralizing identified or specific threats to national security, particularly in counter terrorism operations.”
Trump’s National Security Adviser also assured the Philippines that the US will always support and defend its treaty ally under the Mutual Defense Treaty, as he welcomed the decision of President Duterte to extend the US-PH Visiting Forces Agreement.
“We look forward to the VFA continuing to facilitate our closer cooperation in combatting terrorism,” O’Brien said.
“We also hope to expand our cooperation on a whole range of security challenges, from disaster relief to maritime security,” the US official added.
O’Brien also lauded President Duterte’s recent call during the ASEAN Summit for all nations to respect international law in the South China Sea.
“Know that the United States stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the Philippines. Our nations share a deep interest in upholding the rule of law and the rules-based international order that is underwritten during peace in Asia - peace, stability, and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific Region since the end of the Second World War,” he said.
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