Friday, October 25, 2002

Fighting poverty
is crucial to terror war,
Arroyo says

Mabuhay, Presidente!

By Craig Gima

The war on terrorism must also be a war on poverty.

That's the message Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo will take to summit meetings with President Bush and other world leaders at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Mexico this weekend.

"Because the terrorists thrive in very poor communities, it is important that we recognize the link between terrorism and poverty," she said yesterday afternoon at a news conference during her visit to the Filipino Community Center. "Just as we aggressively fight terrorism, we must also aggressively fight poverty."

Arroyo said when she meets with Bush, she will discuss economic development initiatives in addition to military cooperation.

In a meeting with U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye yesterday morning, Arroyo said she thanked Hawaii's senior senator for his support in getting favorable tariffs for tuna canneries in Mindanao, where many former rebels have laid down their arms and taken jobs in the canneries.

She pointed to the tuna industry as an example of how economic development can help in the fight against terrorism.

She said she also thanked Inouye for his help in trying to get foreign aid for military assistance to the Philippines.

After the meeting, Inouye said aid to the Philippines would probably have to wait until the next Congress takes office in January, and described the Philippines as "a land of civility" in the region.

Arroyo also met with Adm. Thomas Fargo, the commander in chief of the U.S. military forces in the Pacific.

Neither Fargo nor Arroyo went into detail about what was discussed during the meeting, which lasted a little more than half an hour.

Both said they talked about training and mutual security issues. Fargo described the meeting as "very positive."

About 600 U.S. Marines are finishing up a joint military exercise called Talon Vision 02. Another joint training exercise, which may include soldiers from Hawaii and will target the Abu Sayyaf insurgency, is scheduled for May.

About 260 American troops remain in the southern Philippine city of Zamboanga following the first six-month U.S. counterterrorism training exercise aimed at helping Filipino troops fight Abu Sayyaf.

Arroyo said the Philippines and the United States share an interest in fighting terrorism in the region.

"Strategic assessments point to a possible shift in al-Qaida's center of gravity to Southeast Asia. America and the Philippines are sharing eyes and ears on this development," she said.

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