- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 15, 2002

Philippine defense chief Angelo Reyes says that U.S. training has helped his nation's troops to rout the Abu Sayyaf terrorists who held an American missionary couple for more than a year, but that he still needs more U.S. help and money.

A supplemental 2002 U.S. budget provided $25 million to train two light-reaction companies, four light-infantry battalions, pilots and crews for night helicopter flying and intelligence upgrades. But Mr. Reyes wants $30 million more to train more fast-reaction, anti-terror companies.

"Another $30 million has been voted as emergency aid [by the U.S. Congress] but not signed yet by President Bush," he said in an interview in Washington on Tuesday.

The Philippines may not get the money. White House spokesman Sean McCormack said yesterday the $30 million was included in $5.1 billion in anti-terrorism funding that Mr. Bush announced on Tuesday that he was freezing for budget reasons.

Mr. Reyes said the money is needed to train four more light-infantry battalions and equip helicopters with night flying capability and to train for psychological operations and civil affairs programs aimed at undercutting support for rebel groups.

The United States two weeks ago completed a six-month-long exercise in which 660 U.S. Special Forces troops and 340 U.S. naval engineers trained Philippine troops in counterinsurgency and anti-terror techniques.

Mr. Reyes said the light-reaction companies of 60 troops each trained by the Americans have engaged Islamic terrorists of the Abu Sayyaf group and driven them from their bases in Basilan island.

Only 80 to 100 out of an original 1,000 terrorists remain active, and they have fled to Sulu island, he said.

"The training exercise was most effective," he added. "U.S.-Philippines military relations I believe have gained momentum."

In meetings with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and other senior U.S. officials, Mr. Reyes said, he and Mr. Rumsfeld established a U.S.-Philippines Defense Policy Board to "support dialogue and interaction and set defense related policies."

The Philippines wants U.S. help to confront twin insurgencies the Muslim rebels on Basilan and Sulu islands and the communist New People's Army (NPA) on other islands.

Last week the U.S. State Department added the NPA and its political arm, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), to the U.S. terrorism list.

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