MANILA, Philippines — The United States vowed Wednesday to support Filipino troops in their fight against Islamic terrorist groups in Mindanao and said that it wouldn’t mind helping out as well in the fight against Manila’s other terrorist foe — the communist New People’s Army (NPA).
At the conclusion of a meeting with military leaders on RP-US mutual defense and security interests in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City, visiting US Pacific Command chief Admiral Timothy Keating said information sharing and the grant of more hardware was in the pipeline to sustain the offensive against priority targets Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) and “any organization designated as a terrorist organization by the government of the Philippines and the US.”
Asked whether the US would consider the NPA in their cooperative efforts against terrorism, Keating said: “We’re just right now focused on the Abu Sayyaf Group but if the government of the Philippines tells us that they need help on the New People’s Army, we would consider and respond. So, yes.”
The Abu Sayaff and its Indonesian ally JI are tagged as allies of the al-Qaeda terror network of Osama bin Laden. Both Manila and Washington have also tagged the NPA as a terrorist group.
Keating, who earlier visited US and Filipino troops in Sulu province, was at Camp Aguinaldo Wednesday for the start of a two-day meeting of the RP-US Mutual Defense Board (MDB) and Security Engagement Board (SEB).
The Constitution bars US troops from engaging in actual combat but they can provide intelligence and technical support.
In a joint news conference with Keating, Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Hermogenes Esperon Jr. added that the meeting saw them updating and planning future joint activities to battle “both traditional and non-traditional threats.”