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31 March 2005

Philippines Facing Coordinated Terrorist Threats, Admiral Warns

PACOM commander also discusses joint U.S.-Philippine military cooperation

The government of the Philippines faces a great challenge from the increased cooperation among several insurgencies and terrorist groups in the country, according to Admiral William J. Fallon, commander of the U.S. Pacific Command.

In a March 29 interview with the Philippines Defense Press Corps, Fallon said he believes there are ties and common traits among many of the groups.

"They may have different objectives because they come in [from] different places and different ideologies that drive them.  But, at the end of the day, they are using many of the same methods," he said, adding that "those methods are very harmful to people because, it seems to me, the sole objective is to sow distress, fear and chaos in people, and these are not useful to people of any nation."

Fallon said the United States and the Philippines are cooperating to fight common threats such as terrorism and stressed the value of joint military exercises between the countries.

"[O]ne of the key lessons that I've taken the last several years is that it's very rare that a single country, particularly my own, is likely to be involved in any kind of operation by itself. And so, we must learn how to understand the capabilities of those with whom we might work. At the same time, it gives the opportunity to learn something and teach one another based on our individual experiences," he said.

Following is the State Department transcript of the interview:

(begin transcript)

Interview with Philippines Defense Press Corps
SND [SECRETARY OF NATIONAL DEFENSE] AVELINO J. CRUZ, JR.
and USPACOM [U.S. PACIFIC COMMAND] ADM. WILLIAM J. FALLON,
Department of National Defense, Camp Aguinaldo, Q.C.
4:00 pm, 29 March 2005

Question:  How would you assess the Philippines' anti-terrorism campaign amid Washington's recent warning concerning multiple terror attacks in our country?

Adm. Fallon:  I think the government here has a great, big challenge because there are several insurgencies that are ongoing. I would like, as my position as Commander of US Pacific Command, to offer any assistance that I can. We've had some very, very good discussions. It has been a great honor for me to come and visit here and that's the purpose of my visit -- as I'm brand new in my job -- is to come out and meet with the leadership in the nations with whom we're going to work and to find out what's going on and to see what it is that I might be able to do that might be helpful. So, I think I would tell you that I'm really encouraged by the good conversations that we've had. I have better understanding of the situation here, and I am looking forward to helping and doing anything we can to achieve some common goals. I believe that there are ties, common traits between many of these terror groups.  They may have different objectives because they come in different places and different ideologies that drive them. But, at the end of the day, they are using many of the same methods and those methods are very harmful to people because, it seems to me, the sole objective is to sow distress, fear and chaos in people, and these are not useful to people of any nation. So, if we join together in ways that make sense, that are smart, and help one another, I think we would be able to do a better job and maybe make the world a better place for all of our people.

Question:  Are you going to give us a passing mark?

Adm. Fallon:  I'm not about to grade anything. I'm here in a learning mode. I had a great conversation with Minister Cruz here as we discussed ways, structure and how organizations might be organized to deal with these challenges. I'm not going to grade anybody's homework and I hope you're not going to grade mine.

Question:  Can you give us some of these ideas, plans and programs of action?

Adm. Fallon:  They are not really plans. But, we were discussing organizations and how our military's structured. I know that the Minister here is engaged... that there is a major effort underway at defense reform. We discussed our experiences with this. We discovered many commonalities and there are things that are very much the same because, at the end of the day, we are really dealing with people. And we're trying to figure out ways to intensify these people, to perform at the very best and be able to help in the case of Philippine defense, to help your country to better take care of itself. That's really what this is all about.

Question:  (to SND Cruz) Would you like to add something to what Admiral Fallon said?

SND Cruz:      I just would like to add that the visit of the Admiral is very welcome. He is going around the region to get that first hand feed from the region. This shows a very great interest and enthusiasm in finding out where there could be areas of joint cooperation between the Philippine defense and with that establishment of the US. He is welcome to drop by the Philippines anytime his schedule permits. And I'm glad we're one of the first countries he has visited and this will be a continuation of the great cooperation and mutual assistance that we are getting from the US.

Question:  (to Adm. Fallon) What about the future of the joint military exercises this year?

Adm. Fallon:  I think that those exercises are very valuable for number of reasons: one, because you get to find out how confident you really are in certain areas; the other one is to test theories and capabilities and see what works and doesn't work. And one of the key lessons that I've taken the last several years is that it's very rare that a single country, particularly in my own, is likely to be involved in any kind of operation by itself. And so, we must learn how to understand the capabilities of those with whom we might work. At the same time, it gives the opportunity to learn something and teach one another based on our individual experiences. And it seems that the sum of the parts is almost always greater than the individual sum. So, we look forward to exercises in areas where it makes sense, where it is agreed by both nations, that's a good thing to do, that we could both gain from. So, we don't have any new plans, we didn't discussed (inaudible) about the proper exercise except in generalities. But it seems to me there is value in exercises if structured correctly. When the parties agree in advance what they want to get from it, then we actually go back and assist them and actually get results from those. I think would just like to say how wonderful it is to be here. It's a great honor to be invited here. It's great to be back in the Philippines. I've been here many years ago, and I've always found the people very warm and friendly. In fact, there is a very special relationship between our two countries that is so enjoyable to be here with you. I want to thank the Minister, the President for her generosity inviting me to come to talk to leadership here. Thank you very much.

(end transcript)