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Bush, Arroyo to Increase Military Cooperation in Fight Against Terrorism - 2003-10-18

President Bush and Philippine President Gloria Arroyo have agreed to increase military cooperation to fight terrorism in South-East Asia. Mr. Bush spoke to the Philippine Congress where he reinforced U.S. support for the country's democracy following a failed military revolt earlier this year.

In the fight against terrorism, President Bush says the U.S. / Filipino military alliance is a rock of stability in the Pacific.

During a speech before the Philippine Congress, Mr. Bush praised President Arroyo for acting to stop the Abu Sayyaf Group, which has kidnapped and killed foreign tourists. He says the two nations are updating their defense cooperation to defeat those terrorists as well as members of the al-Qaida-connected Jemaah Islamiya network blamed for bombings in Indonesia.

Mr. Bush told Philippine legislators that their two countries share a determination to keep their people safe from further terrorist attacks.

"We have endured the violence and grief of terror. We know the enemy wants to spread fear and chaos," the president said. "Our two nations have made our choice. We will defend ourselves, our civilization, and the peace of the world. We will not be intimidated by terrorists."

Mr. Bush backed President Arroyo's efforts to make peace with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front on the island of Mindanao, calling on all members of that group to reject terror and move forward with political negotiations. If they do, and only if they do, Mr. Bush says Washington will provide development assistance to the people of Mindanao.

He said all nations share the responsibility to defeat terrorists because they threaten fundamental ideals of religious liberty, free enterprise, and the rule of law.

"Like other militarists and fascists before them, the terrorists and their allies seek to control every mind and soul. They seek to spread chaos and fear, intimidate whole societies, and silence all opposition," he said. "And they seek weapons of mass destruction to complete their hatred in genocide. The terrorists will continue their mission of murder and suicide until they are stopped and we will stop them."

The United States currently provides more than $114 million of military assistance to the Philippines. President Arroyo was one of the first world leaders to respond to Mr. Bush's call to fight terrorism following the September 11 2001 attacks in New York and Washington.

This brief state visit is partly in thanks for that support following an unsuccessful military revolt against President Arroyo earlier this year.

During his speech to Congress, President Bush reinforced Washington's support for Philippine democracy, saying Asia's first democracy has inspired liberty throughout the Western Pacific.

"Sustaining liberty is not always easy. The world saw this last July, here in the Philippines. And all free nations rejoiced when the mutiny against this government failed. The people of this land fought too hard, for too long, to surrender your freedom to the conspiracy of a few," he said.

Following his congressional address, the president and Mrs. Bush were guests at a state dinner at the presidential palace.