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U.S. Fails to Give Promised Military Aid, Aquino Says

May 05, 1987|Associated Press

MANILA — President Corazon Aquino on Monday accused the United States of failing to provide promised military assistance to help her government cope with a Communist rebellion and the threat of new fighting with Muslim guerrillas.

Aquino said it appears that U.S. critics of Philippine efforts against the rebels expect her troops to fight "with our teeth and our hands."

In Washington, the Reagan Administration said it agrees that the Philippines needs more aid in its fight against an 18-year-old Communist insurgency and suggested that Congress is to blame for the level of funding.

Rebel Ambush Told

These coincidental developments occurred Monday:

--The army reported its second worst defeat of 1987, a Communist rebel ambush that killed 16 soldiers.

--Satur Ocampo, a top Communist leader, said the rebels already are outgunned and will seek greater firepower if the government acquires more American weapons. Ocampo is an official of the National Democratic Front, the political wing of the Communist New People's Army.

--Government negotiator Emmanuel Pelaez said that he will fly to Jolo island today to meet Muslim rebel chief Nur Misuari in an effort to break a deadlock in talks to end the separate, 15-year-old Islamic rebellion.

The armed forces reported that soldiers of the 4th Infantry Battalion were ambushed Monday near Liloan in the Malino region of Aklan island, about 230 miles southeast of Manila. Fourteen soldiers were killed and two died in hospitals, a dispatch of the government-run Philippines News Agency reported. Battalion headquarters said that the body of one rebel was recovered.

March Fighting Recalled

The soldiers were traveling to a nearby town to aid a unit under fire from the rebels since the night before, the news agency said.

It was the worst defeat reported by the military since March, when 19 soldiers died fighting rebels in Quezon province, east of Manila.

The military also reported that two soldiers and a rebel were killed Sunday in an ambush on Samar island, a guerrilla stronghold.

At a flag-raising ceremony at Villamor air base, President Aquino complained that lack of mobility and inadequate tactical intelligence are hindering the military's ability to crush the 24,000-member New People's Army.

Without naming the United States, she said that her government repeatedly asked "our military ally" for helicopters and other help.

"In the meantime, we shall have to depend on our valor and native ingenuity. Much as we need relevant, adequate and kindly assistance of our ally, our security needs cannot wait on their generosity," she said.

Later, Defense Secretary Rafael Ileto said Aquino was reminding the Americans "that they have a lot of commitments, and it's (military aid) not coming as fast as she expects it."

Last month, the House of Representatives in Washington cut $50 million from military aid requested by the Philippine government.

State Department spokesman Charles Redman said Monday, "It has been our position that there is more money needed . . . in our foreign assistance accounts, that includes military assistance programs to the Philippines. . . . Thus far there doesn't seem to have been any favorable action for moving ahead with that money."

The United States is the Philippines' main arms supplier. Aquino has asked for about 130 helicopters to help put down the Marxist rebellion.

Peace talks with the rebels collapsed this year, and a 60-day cease-fire expired Feb. 8. The New People's Army has resumed fighting, but Muslim rebels in the south have continued talking under a separate truce that expires May 9.

The Moro National Liberation Front wants Muslim autonomy in a large swath of the southern Philippines.

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