- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 22, 2003

Christmas came early to Manila this year. During this week’s state visit to the White House, Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo reaped the rewards of being what President Bush considers his friend. During the pomp of what is only this president’s third official state visit, the administration promised at least $95 million in military aid. We hope the cash encourages Mrs. Arroyo to be more loyal than she was over the last year.

At the state dinner at the White House on Monday night, Mr. Bush thanked his Asian counterpart for her unwavering friendship. That was gracious, considering that what she says back home on the islands isn’t always consistent with the smiling face she puts on for Washington. Just two months ago, Manila embarrassed the Pentagon by renouncing a large agreed-upon deployment of U.S. troops to the archipelago — after the U.S. Defense Department announced the deal. Up to the last hour before the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq, Mrs. Arroyo and her spokesmen continued to parrot French-sounding language that negotiations and more time for inspections could prevent war.

Worse than either of these affronts was her bold protest against war during the planning stages last September, when the Bush administration was trying to line up allied support for a strike. At this delicate time, Mrs. Arroyo came out on the anti-American side, forbidding U.S. warplanes rights to fly over Philippine airspace or even to refuel at Philippine airbases during any attack on Iraq. Making this stand more offensive was the fact that Washington hadn’t even requested either allowance. And these acts all occurred after Mr. Bush had given the Philippines more than $100 million and sent thousands of GIs to help in the fight against terrorism. Some thanks.

Apparently offsetting these factors for the White House is the usefulness of past intelligence cooperation and a broader alliance against terrorism in Southeast Asia in the future. The windfall from this week’s state visit was huge. In a couple of days, U.S. and Philippine officials inked 17 agreements, covering everything from Philippine export deals, U.S. agricultural and electric-power aid and bilateral military training exercises, which again will bring American troops to the Philippines for six months. U.S. businesses made commitments to create 10,000 new jobs and invest $3.2 billion in the country. Perhaps most prestigious was the announcement that the Bush administration planned to designate the Philippines as a Major Non-NATO Ally, a status that promises even more aid and ranks the level of security cooperation between the two nations on a par with America’s closest allies.

There are allegations that recent U.S. funds to the Philippines have not been well-spent. It’s not our opinion that it is necessarily important to audit assistance once it has been given. Part of the point of foreign aid is to reward a nation for being on our side. But a little bit more fealty from President Arroyo would show that the price for the Filipina’s friendship is worth it.

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