MANILA — President Corazon Aquino, requesting more military aid from the United States, said today Washington should not expect Philippine troops to fight a communist insurgency "with our teeth and our hands."
Her announcement coincided with a communist rebel ambush that killed 16 soldiers and wounded nine others in Aklan, 220 miles south of Manila, in the central Philippines.
The military said the guerrillas sprang from thick rows of coconut palms lining the road and attacked the soldiers from both sides. The troops were en route to reinforce soldiers under attack from rebels nearby.
Aquino, who has been criticized by the Pentagon for her handling of the 18-year-old insurgency, said she had repeatedly asked Washington for more helicopter gunships, at least 10 for each of the country's 13 regions.
'Security Needs Cannot Wait'
"Much as we need relevant, adequate and timely assistance from our ally, our security needs cannot wait on their generosity," Aquino said at a ceremony marking the 51st anniversary of the Philippine Air Force.
"Our principal military supplier should not expect our brave soldiers and determined commanders to fight the insurgency with our teeth and our hands," Aquino told 1,000 air force men and civilian employees at Manila's Villamor Air Base.
She said that in their last meeting, military officials said the lack of communications facilities and "inability to act quickly and decisively on the reports we receive in the field" were hampering the drive against the 24,500-member communist New People's Army.
Aquino, who took power in February, 1986, in a joint military-civilian revolt against President Ferdinand E. Marcos, reiterated her vow in March "to end all threats to our democracy coming from the left or the right in five years."
Defense Secretary Rafael Ileto said Aquino's speech was a reminder to both the Philippine military and the Americans.
Ileto, a retired West Point-trained general, said Aquino was "reminding the Americans that they have a lot of commitments and they are not coming as fast as she expects them to."