Philippines: February 24, 2003


Philippine officials have once again shot down reports that American troops will be fighting Abu Sayyaf, saying that the country's constitution banned foreign combat troops. The United States' military presence remains a sensitive issue in this former American colony, which forbids the presence of foreign troops unless allowed by a treaty. A Mutual Defense Treaty exists and in 1998, both nations signed a Visiting Forces Agreement (which allowed large-scale military exercises to resume).

The Philippine foreign minister accused "junior officials who don't know what they are talking about'' in Washington of making false statements and local politicians remained adamant that the Americans would only train and advise Filipinos. 

The Philippines has also put 60,000 troops on high alert in the southern region of Mindanao, to counter threats by Muslim rebels against both American and Filipino military detachments (as well as civilian targets). US Special Forces and Philippine soldiers started a 10-month training exercise in Zamboanga on the 23rd, which is designed to improve the Filipinos' fighting skills. - Adam Geibel


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