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By Gloria Macapagal Arroyo

Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is president of the Philippines.

-- As focus shifts from the campaign in Afghanistan to where the anti-terror fight goes next, the Philippines has become an important part of the picture.

Long before Sept. 11, the Philippines fought terrorism on its soil and gained the upper hand, isolating terrorist insurgents to a few small islands. We have felt the pain of terrorism firsthand and knew it must not spread to the rest of the world. That is why we were the first in Asia to lend our support to the international coalition.

Although we have been engaged in a protracted campaign to destroy the Abu Sayyaf terrorists in a remote island in southwestern Philippines, the arrival of U.S. anti-terrorist trainers and several hundred support troops for joint military exercises has garnered world attention and stirred up passion among a vocal minority of our citizenry. Old rhetoric reminiscent of the debate over the closing of U.S. bases and even Vietnam have again surfaced.

Because I believe in the imperative to wipe out terrorism I took the politically risky action of recommending that this year's annual joint military exercises with the United States adopt a program of enhancing the capability of Filipino soldiers to fight terrorism. This will help us go the last mile in destroying the Abu Sayyaf terrorists.

The United States will be in the Philippines -- by agreement only for the next six months -- to provide intelligence assistance, including operation of sophisticated tracking equipment. Even though, in my view, the circumstances exist for the U.S. forces to be lawfully engaged in combat, we have taken the policy decision for them not to do so.

We consider the Abu Sayyaf to be terrorists of the kind identified by the international coalition as the enemy. We have incontrovertible proof of their linkages to foreign terrorist groups, including Al Qaeda, at least until 1995, when we thwarted a plot to bomb American Airlines. This subsequently led to the arrest of Ramzi Yousef, who was later convicted of involvement in the first World Trade Center bombing.

With the recent seizure of a large cache of arms and explosives and the arrest of an Indonesian citizen, we have also now been made aware of the existence of terrorist cells all across our region.

The solution to terrorism, however, rests not only in sophisticated intelligence and modern weaponry, but in addressing the conditions on which terrorism finds sustenance -- despair, exclusion and hopelessness born out of poverty and intolerance, which make people vulnerable to the siren song of extremism.

We have put a face on terrorists, and now we must put a face on the poor. To eliminate terrorism we must also eliminate poverty. If we do not, the breeding ground of resentment will begin again to plague another generation.

In the uplifting sight of Afghan women crying in joy over their liberation from the cruelties of the Taliban, we see the shadow of the struggles to come in making Afghanistan a viable state and working economy.

Multiply Afghanistan's situation to about one-fifth of all humanity, and we can imagine the scale of the challenge. According to the World Bank, half the developing world -- some 2 billion people -- live in countries that have seen little growth in the last two decades. And even those in developing countries that have been doing well, hundreds of millions of people are marginal to the progress of growth. As a result, well over 1 billion people, around 20 percent of the population of this planet, live on less than $1 a day.

This 20 percent are the constituency to whom terrorists and extremists sing their siren song -- with great success. This is why I am anxious that the flush of military action in Afghanistan does not stop at the edge of this larger struggle against poverty.

For any new initiative against poverty to succeed, developed and developing countries alike must accept new responsibilities to go with the new opportunities. Poor countries must meet the challenge of adopting standards of transparency and accountability and building market economies so as to become real partners in investment and trade.

In the Philippines, we are doing that. Our vision for economic development is based on a reform plan aimed at eliminating extreme poverty within the decade. That plan hinges on four components: an economic philosophy of free enterprise appropriate to the 21st century; a modernized agricultural sector founded on social equity; support for the disadvantaged in our economic growth plan (with microcredit programs to lift 150,000 families a year from poverty); eliminating corruption in government, which is, without saying, the precondition for success in all these areas.

These challenges are not unique to the Philippines. As a leader of a developing country that has made a commitment to democracy and markets, I have been resolute in implementing essential reforms without which international assistance will do little good.
The answer to globalization is to get productively engaged in the world economy, not to withdraw from it. In turn, developed countries must recognize their duty to open their markets, transfer resources and reform international institutions. It is a fact that how rich countries manage their economies determines stability in the world's financial system and the availability of resources for development in the poor countries.

A new kind of war requires a new kind of peace. The hallmarks of any new global alliance to alleviate poverty must be market-driven, solve a real human problem and demand accountability from those nations that benefit. It cannot be the same old formula of handouts to the have-nots. Rather, it must be a hand-up for the self-reliant.

We have reason to cheer that the ongoing war against terrorism is making significant progress. But victory in this struggle does not depend only on winning the battles of this war. We must also win the peace. If anything, globalization means that, in both war and peace, we are all linked.

(c) 2002, Global Viewpoint. Distributed by Los Angeles Times Syndicate International, a division of Tribune Media Services
For immediate release (Distributed 2/5/02)