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Press Release from Senate of the Philippines 14th Congress
January 11, 2009

Opposition Senator Chiz Escudero today cautioned the government to stick to humanitarian missions alone of the 2009 RP-US Balikatan military exercises in the Bicol provinces in April this year.

The Balikatan exercises have been arranged for engineering and medical missions in the provinces of Albay, Masbate and Sorsogon.

While Escudero, Senate Committee Chairman of Justice and Human Rights said the aim of the Balikatan exercises would benefit many locals, especially those who have been severely affected by disasters in previous years, he remains wary of other agenda that may be concealed from the public.

“Our government better make sure that this exercise will adhere to the terms it has been devoted to and not use it as front for other endeavors that may antagonize and stir indifference from various sectors.”

Escudero, for one refers to the insurgency problem in the Bicol region with New People’s Army on the other end of the government concerns.

While the senator admits that the insurgency problem in Bicol still persists and needs to be addressed in all fronts, he said the government should keep external forces out of this matter.

“The Balikatan should avoid at all cost any intervention that may straddle in our internal affairs. The insurgency issue in Bicol, and in any part of the country for that matter, remains the national government’s concern and responsibility. Any outside force touching it meddles with our sovereignty”.

The senator also cautioned US soldiers joining the exercises to conduct themselves in the true manner of an officer and a gentleman and adhere to the laws governing the country and its people.

“The Balikatan should not leave any single Filipino disadvantaged in any form or manner. Both sides should make sure that they finish the exercises without any untoward incidents”.

Escudero, who is a Bicolano himself also appealed to all locals and the armed sectors of the province to let the military humanitarian mission proceed peacefully.

“Let no one antagonize any one. If this mission is really for medical and engineering endeavors, let us not get in the way of helping our fellowmen who have suffered from the devastation of previous disasters.”###

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