MANILA — US Ambassador Harry K. Thomas Jr. cited the mutual defense treaty between the Philippines and the United States for enabling US soldiers to assist in the search and rescue operation in typhoon-hit Mindanao where the death toll has reached a thousand and more than 800 remained missing, as of Sunday.
“We continue to pray for (the typhoon victims in Mindanao) and we hope for their recovery,” Thomas told the Philippine Daily Inquirer on Friday at the sidelines of the annual parol (Christmas lantern) lighting of the US Embassy along Roxas Boulevard, where he also thanked the city government of Manila for the assistance when the embassy was flooded in August.
“This year we shared a challenging typhoon season. We look back to the City of Manila for what you did for our embassy staff as the water rose and the support you offered,” he said.
Thomas said the US government, at the request of the Philippine government, was able to extend help in Mindanao “because of our 61-year-old defense treaty and the Visiting Forces Agreement which allows us to bring our military to assist the Philippines.”
“We’ve already given P400 million and relief goods and assistance. We’re conducting retrieval operation for the missing fishermen; our helicopters and planes are looking for them,” he said.
US and Philippine defense officials recently met to discuss an increase in American military troops to be deployed in the country. Thomas said there was no interest in reviving US military bases in the Philippines, “the increased presence is just to assist the Filipino people.”
The US Navy has used its P-3C Orion spy planes to search for missing tuna fishermen, mostly from General Santos City, in the tuna fishing ground in the south Pacific./INQUIRER