US vows continued aid to Mindanao

By Tarra Quismundo
Last updated 06:51am (Mla time) 08/03/2007

MANILA, Philippines — Despite the July 10 ambush-killing of Marines in Basilan province, the United States Thursday said it would continue providing aid to Mindanao to help improve the peace and order situation there.


US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Christopher Hill said the killings and the impending military offensive in Basilan “should not dissuade us” from providing assistance.


“We don’t believe this affects our interest and desire to provide assistance. On the contrary, we feel that the assistance that has been provided in Mindanao is really helping the situation,” Hill said in a brief round table meeting with journalists at the US Embassy in Manila.


“Overall, the situation is better now than it was a few years ago, and some of the reasons — not all of the reasons — why it’s better, has to do with this assistance,” said the official, who was in the country to attend meetings of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations regional forum.


The US Agency for International Development (USAID) poured a total of $292 million into Mindanao from 1996 to 2006. The amount includes US investment in economic development, governance, environment, education and conflict-mitigation, the USAID said on its website.


This year, USAID, which manages US assistance programs in developing countries around the world, allocated $60.5 million on development assistance for the Philippines, 60 percent of which is for programs in Mindanao, the US Embassy said.


Figures of US defense assistance, annually allocated separately through the US Congress’ Foreign Military Funding, were not readily available.


Malacañang recently announced, however, that the US Congress had allocated $30 million in military aid for the Philippines in the next fiscal year, almost triple the US state department’s proposal of $11 million.


Noting how US assistance has helped advance development and alleviate violence in Mindanao, Hill said: “We would like to continue this and this terrible incident should not dissuade us from providing assistance that’s very much needed there.”


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