Manila calls for collective efforts to combat terrorism

Philippine Vice President Maria Leonor Robredo talks to Arab News at her office in Manila on Tuesday. (AN photo)
Updated 18 September 2019

Manila calls for collective efforts to combat terrorism

  • Attacks on Saudi oil facilities a ‘wake-up call’ to the world, VP tells Arab News

MANILA: The Philippines on Tuesday called for collective international efforts to combat terrorism in the wake of strikes on Saudi oil facilities.

In an exclusive interview with Arab News, Vice President of the Philippines Maria Leonor Robredo said that the attacks were a “wake-up call” to the world and threatened not only her country’s economy but also Filipinos working in the Kingdom.

“I know for a fact that Saudi Arabia has been at the forefront of combating terrorist activities. Now that we have heard of the recent attacks last week in the Middle East, it is another wake-up call for all of us that the threat is still there,” she added.

Speaking at her office in Manila, Robredo said that such strikes would have a negative impact on the Philippines. “The attacks are not just expected to affect our economy, but also the future of Filipino workers who reside there (Saudi Arabia).”

On Tuesday, Reuters reported a drop in oil prices. Oil ended nearly 15 percent higher on Monday, with Brent logging its biggest jump in more than 30 years amid record trading volumes.

“My stance is that attacks will continue if we will not step up as a community of nations in really working together, doing collective efforts to combat terrorism,” said Robredo.

HIGHLIGHT

Following Saturday’s coordinated drone hits on key Saudi oil sites, the Philippine government convened an emergency meeting afternoon to discuss the situation.

Filipino Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. also expressed concerns about the possible impact of the terror strikes, particularly on oil prices and supplies to his country.

“This is serious. It will — not could — affect us deeply; to put it bluntly, an oil shortage or steep rise in oil price will rock the Philippine boat and tip it over,” Locsin said on Twitter.

Following Saturday’s coordinated drone hits on key Saudi oil sites at Khurais and Abqaiq in the Eastern Province, the Philippine government convened an emergency meeting on Sunday afternoon to discuss the situation.

Present during the meeting held at the Department of Energy (DoE) headquarters in the city of Taguig were officials of the Electric Power Industry Management Bureau, Industry Management Bureau, the National Electrification Administration (NEA), the National Power Corporation (NPC), the Philippine National Oil Co. (PNOC), and the PNOC-Exploration Committee.

“We are seeking to ensure that the energy family will be sufficiently prepared to face the potential impact of this unfortunate incident, if any, on the country,” Secretary of Energy Alfonso Cusi said in a statement.

“Rest assured that the DoE, together with the entire energy family, is closely monitoring the situation, and will keep the public properly informed of developments on the matter,” he added.


US intensifying plans to move military assets from Incirlik to Greece

Updated 28 sec ago

US intensifying plans to move military assets from Incirlik to Greece

  • The US is considering Souda Bay on the Greek island of Crete as an alternative to Incirlik
  • Erdogan has also threatened to kick the US military off Incirlik air base if Congress imposes sanctions on Turkey

NEW YORK: The US is exploring plans to relocate some of its important assets from the Incirlik air base in Turkey to Greece.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will discuss such proposals on his visit to Souda Bay, a US naval facility on the northern shores of the Geek island of Crete.

The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee for Europe, Wisconsin Sen. Ron Jonson, had already mentioned earlier in September that the US is considering Souda Bay as an alternative to Incirlik.

Jonson told the Washington Examiner that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s “disturbing” foreign policy has spurred American officials to intensify preparations to withdraw from Incirlik.

“It’s very concerning, which is one of the reasons (we) certainly are improving our military cooperation with Greece ... beefing up our presence in Souda Bay, because our presence, quite honestly, in Turkey is certainly threatened,” said Jonson.

Pompeo’s visit to Greece, the second to the region this month, comes as tensions in the eastern Mediterranean are at an all-time high between Greece and Cyprus on the one hand, and Turkey on the other.

Last year, Ankara signed a maritime accord with Libya’s Government of National Accord and sent its vessels, accompanied by the military, to begin gas exploration operations in areas of the Mediterranean that Greece considers part of its economic zone.

Disputes over rights to energy resources have raised concerns that they could escalate into open conflict.

The rebasing plans come at a time when Turkey has become an “increasingly unreliable NATO ally and partner to the US,” Paul Gadalla, a Washington DC-based analyst focused on the eastern Mediterranean who worked at the Carnegie Middle East Center, told Arab News.

Erdogan decided last year, against strong objections from American and other NATO allies, to buy the sophisticated Russian S-400 air defense system.

“It’s unprecedented for a NATO member to make such a big weapons purchase from basically an enemy country,” said Gadalla.

Erdogan has also threatened to kick the US military out of the Incirlik air base if Congress imposes sanctions on Turkey for its purchase of Russian weapons.

“Pompeo is now telling Erdogan, ‘You know what? If you want to kick us out, we have an alternative’,” said Gadalla.

“Greece is more than willing and prepared to take on the role of the new, reliable partner. The Greeks are looking for a way to gain more diplomatic leverage over Turkey. They know Turkey wouldn’t attack US troops in Greece.”

For a decade, Greece had been mired in an economic crisis. It had a far-left government that was at loggerheads with the EU.

Now, Gadalla said, “Athens is really trying to bolster its reputation and prove that it’s a stable force in the eastern Mediterranean. It’s also looking for diplomatic support to protect its energy and geopolitical interests. Greece is also looking to expand its ties with the US in hopes of getting new weapons to revamp its military.”

He added: “The US, for its part, sees a major opportunity in Greece as well. As the country is in the process of privatizing its ports, the US is trying to limit China from buying those ports.”

The Chinese already own a controlling stake in the Port of Piraeus in Athens, one of the busiest Mediterranean ports.

China and Russia have been pushing to gain more influence in the region. Their endeavors are likely to intensify to fill the void that would be left by a possible American withdrawal from Incirlik.

Taking over the air base would “give Russia an even bigger bridgehead in the eastern Mediterranean to increase its presence,” said Gadalla.