Beng tackles VFA, travel advisory with US envoy PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 17 August 2013 11:42

Mayor Beng Climaco yesterday brought anew to the attention of the United States government through the US Embassy about her concerns relative to the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and the issuance of travel advisories.

This, as she graciously welcomed to City Hall outgoing US Ambassador Harry Thomas during the latter’s exit call Friday afternoon, barely 6 weeks before the change of the guard at the US Embassy in Manila.

The mayor thanked Thomas for all the efforts extended over the years as envoy of the US to the Philippines. These efforts to include Zamboanga City and Mindanao in the envoy’s agenda, she stressed are essential toward the development of the citizens in building stronger ties between and among the two nations.

“As you turn over the helm of the US Embassy in Manila, I hope that you can endorse our concerns to the incoming Ambassador, as these would greatly help in the development efforts in our locality and that of our neighbours in Mindanao,” the mayor told Ambassador Thomas.

The efforts included clarification of the plans of the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P) in the city; the conduct of all JSOTFP activities in the city should be properly coordinated with the local government; need to designate a liaison officer with the city government who will be handling local issues and concerns with JSOTFP and request for assistance on the rehabilitation and asphalting of the airport runway which is also being utilized by American planes and jets as landing site.

The other concerns raised were the need for a prior notice on the impending issuance of any travel advisory; request for provision of technical expertise to fully activate the city’s Command Center for emergency response; request for assistance in calibrating airport security and CCTV system and possible programs and partnerships with the city government through the USAID and other agencies of the US government.

In an interview with reporters after the courtesy call, Mayor Climaco said Thomas has given his assurance to the Zamboanguenos and the Filipinos in general that the US embassy will continue its support not only in terms of supplementing security efforts but also in training people on how to respond to disasters

She said Thomas also endorsed to the city the continuous services of the USAID’s Growth with Equity in Mindanao (GEM) under the leadership of Ms. Gloria Steele for constant implementation of joint projects and programs based on the requests and mandates of the Aquino administration.

The courtesy call ended with the exchange of tokens between Climaco and the outgoing ambassador. — Sheila Covarrubias