Celso reaffirms support to RP-US joint exercises PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 25 June 2011 15:18

Mayor Celso Lobregat yesterday reiterated Zamboanga City’s support to the ongoing joint US-Philippine military exercises aimed to destroy  extremist groups.
The mayor said this in a private meeting with US Ambassador Harry Thomas in City Hall lunchtime yesterday, a few hours after the change of command at the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines at Camp Navarro where both officials attended.

Mayor Lobregat said the joint military exercises have blessed Zamboanga City and the neighboring provinces multi-faceted projects that impact the lives of the constituents. Not only do the joint exercises provide the sense of security but also lead to the implementation of projects related to health, education, social welfare and other sectors.
Zamboanga City has been host to US forces since the year 2002 when the Balikatan Exercises were launched in Mindanao.

“Ambassador Thomas, rest assured, as we had just witnessed the change of command at the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTFP) and as we were one of the first and loudest supporters of the Balikatan—we will continue to do so in the days and years to come”, the mayor stressed.

It is recalled that on February 24, 2002, Lobregat’s mother the late Mayor Maria Clara Lobregat personally led a pro-US rally at the Edwin Andrews Air Base in Sta. Maria and participated by over 2,000 people to support the ongoing joint US-Philippine military exercises.

It was on the same year in 2002 during his term as Congressman of the lone district of Zamboanga when, Mayor Celso Lobregat engaged in a verbal tussle and virtual face off with then Cong. Satur
Ocampo, leader of the militant group Bayan Muna, who imported anti-US protesters from all over Mindanao to rally in Zamboanga at a time when the residents were all out in support of the joint military exercises.

As this developed, Col. Fran Baudette, former G3 and Chief of Staff for the United States Army Special Forces Command (Airborne) assumed as the new JSOTFP chief based at Camp Navarro vice Capt. Robert Gusentine, USN, who has been recalled to mother unit at the Special Operations Command Pacific in Hawaii. MGen. Norman Brozenick, Jr. commander of Special Operations Command Pacific presided over the change of command. 

On the other hand, Ambassador Thomas personally requested the courtesy visit and private meeting with Mayor Lobregat at City Hall yesterday. The occasion was also attended by USAID Mission Director Gloria Steele, Mindanao Development Authority chairperson Luwalhati Antonino; US Air Attache  Col. Richard Matton; US embassy control officer Dean Chang; and US Embassy official Jake Wohlman among others. From the city government side, those present were Councilor Rodolfo Lim, Council representative to the Local School Board; Councilor Nonong Guingona- Council representative to the Zambo Ecozone; Councilor Abdurahman Nuno- barangay sector representative in the City Council; Councilor Jaime Cabato-Council representative to the City Peace and Order Council; City Health Officer Rodelin Agbulos; City Social Welfare and Development Officer Francisco Barredo and City Prosecutor Ricardo Cabaron. — Sheila Covarrubias