Thu, Jul 22, 2004 - Page 5 News List

As troops return, Philippines says it will still fight terror

DPA , MANILA

The Philippines yesterday reiterated its "strong commitment" to the global fight against terrorism in a bid to appease allies who criticized its decision to withdraw its troops from Iraq to save a Filipino hostage held by militants.

"We will maintain our strong stand against terrorism in the face of this isolated event," presidential spokesman Ignacio Bunye said, referring to the hostage crisis involving truck driver Angelo dela Cruz, who was freed on Tuesday. However, he then acknowledged that the Philippines had agreed to the militants' demands.

"The release of Angelo was based on negotiations and on meeting the conditions [of the his captors]," he said.

Bunye said he did not foresee any long-term damage to US-Philippine ties.

"We will consider the United States as our big brother in the security arena," Bunye added. "Our long-standing and maturing relations with the United States will survive this hostage crisis."

Dela Cruz, a 46-year-old father of eight, was released unharmed a day after the Philippines pulled out.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has said she does not regret her decision to withdraw the country's 51-member contingent in Iraq.

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