For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
October 18, 2003
Remarks by the President to the Philippine Congress
4:50 P.M. (Local)
PRESIDENT BUSH: Thank you all very much. Mr. President, Mr. Speaker, members of the Congress, distinguished guests, I thank you for your gracious welcome to the Republic of the Philippines. I also want to thank the citizens of Manila who lined the streets today for their warm and gracious welcome to Laura and me. It warmed our hearts. And I want to thank you for inviting me to be the first American President since Dwight Eisenhower to address this body.
Earlier this year, Laura and I hosted President and Attorney Arroyo at the White House, the first state visit from an Asian country during my administration. (Applause.) Today we are honored to visit America's oldest ally in Asia, and one of America's most valued friends in the world. (Applause.)
The great patriot, Jose Rizal, said that nations win their freedom by deserving it, by loving what is just, what is good, what is great to the point of dying for it. In the 107 years since that good man's heroic death, Filipinos have fought for justice, you have sacrificed for democracy -- you have earned your freedom.
America is proud of its part in the great story of the Filipino people. Together our soldiers liberated the Philippines from colonial rule. Together we rescued the islands from invasion and occupation. The names of Bataan, Corregidor, Leyte, Luzon evoke the memories of shared struggle and shared loss and shared victory. Veterans of those battles are here today. I salute your courage and your service. (Applause.) Along the way and through the years, Americans have gained an abiding respect for the character of your nation and for the decency and courage of the Filipino people.
The Pacific is wide, but it does not divide us. Over 2 million American citizens trace their ancestry to these islands. The commerce between us is vibrant and growing. We work together each day in law enforcement and economic development and government reform. Our young people study at each other's universities. Many Filipinos teach in American public schools. And just this week, our two governments launched a six-year effort to extend greater educational opportunities to children in some of the poorest regions of this country. We understand -- we both know that education helps defeat poverty.
The United States and the Philippines are warm friends. We cherish that friendship, and we will keep it strong. (Applause.) Our countries are joined by more than a market, even more than an alliance. This friendship is rooted in the deepest convictions we hold. We believe in free enterprise, disciplined by humanity and compassion. We believe in the importance of religious faith, protected by religious liberty. We believe in the rule of law, made legitimate by the will of the people. And we believe that democracy is the only form of government fully compatible with human dignity.
These ideals speak to men and women in every culture; yet they are under attack in many cultures in many parts of the world. A new totalitarian threat has risen against civilization. Like other militarists and fascists before them, the terrorists and their allies seek to control every mind and soul. They seek to spread chaos and fear, intimidate whole societies and silence all opposition. They seek weapons of mass destruction to complete their hatred and genocide. The terrorists will continue their missions of murder and suicide until they're stopped, and we will stop them.
Every nation in Asia and across the world now faces a choice. Nations that choose to support terror are complicit in a war against civilization. Nations that try to ignore terror and hope it will only strike others are deluding themselves, undermining our common defense, and inviting a future of catastrophic violence. Nations that choose to fight terror are defending their own safety and the safety of free people everywhere. (Applause.)
The Philippines and the United States has seen the enemy on our own soil. Americans witnessed the murder of thousands on a single day. Filipinos have known bombings and kidnapping and brutal murders of the innocent. We've endured the violence and grief of terror. We know the enemy wants to spread fear and chaos. Our two nations have made our choice. We will defend ourselves, our civilization and the peace of the world. We will not be intimidated by the terrorists. (Applause.)
We're on the offensive against the terrorists, draining their funds, disrupting their plans and bringing them to justice, one person at a time. Here in the Philippines, one face of the enemy is the Abu Sayyaf group. These killers torture and behead their victims, while acting -- or claiming to act -- in the name of God. But murder has no home in any religious faith. And these terrorists must find no home in the Philippines.
My government and your government pursue a common objective: We will bring Abu Sayyaf to justice. (Applause.) And we will continue to work together, along with our friends in Southeast Asia, to dismantle Jamaah Islamiya -- the terrorist network, as well as other groups that traffic in violence and chaos. As we fight the terrorists, we're also determined to end conflicts that spread hopelessness and feed terror.
The United States supports President Arroyo's campaign to establish a lasting peace with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. Shortly before his death, Ustaz Hashim Salamat wrote a letter to me professing his rejection of terrorism. Only that commitment to peace can bring a better future to the people in Mindanao.
I call on all the members of the MILF to reject terror and to move forward with political negotiations. When a lasting peace is established, the United States is prepared to provide development assistance to Mindanao. (Applause.)
Yet there can be no compromise with terror. Philippine security forces have the right and the duty to protect local communities and to defeat terrorism in every form. In the war on terror, U.S.-Philippines military alliance is a rock of stability in the Pacific. (Applause.)
And this afternoon, President Arroyo and I agreed to update our defense cooperation. We completed the comprehensive review of Philippine security requirements announced last May. Today, President Arroyo and her government committed to a five-year plan to modernize and reform your military. (Applause.) I commend the President and your military leadership for taking this bold action. (Applause.) My country will provide technical assistance and field expertise and funding.
But success requires more than American assistance. The members of this body must invest in the Philippine military to ensure that your forces have the resources needed to win the war on terror, and to protect the Philippine people.
Free nations -- free nations have faced a great challenge all around the world and a great challenge in Iraq. Saddam Hussein pursued weapons of mass destruction, sponsored terrorism, oppressed his people, and for 12 years defied the demands of the United Nations. Finally, the U.N. Security Council in Resolution 1441 demanded that Saddam disarm, prove his disarmament to the world, or face serious consequences. Saddam Hussein chose defiance, and President Arroyo was one of the first world leaders to recognize the need for action. The Philippines joined the United States in supporting and enforcing the serious consequences. You rose to the moment, and the American people respect your courageous and principled stand. (Applause.)
Since the liberation of Iraq, we have discovered Saddam's clandestine laboratories suitable for biological and chemical weapons research, his design work on prohibited long-range missiles, his elaborate campaign to hide his illegal weapons programs. We've shut down terror camps, denied terrorists a sanctuary. By our actions, our coalition removed a grave and gathering danger. We also ended one of the cruelest regimes in our time. Saddam's rape rooms and torture chambers and children's prisons are closed forever. His mass graves will claim no victims. The world was right to confront the regime of Saddam Hussein, and we were right to end the regime of Saddam Hussein. (Applause.)
Now that the dictator is gone, Americans and Filipinos and many others share a common vision for that country. Coalition forces, including Filipino peacekeepers and medical workers, are working for the rise of freedom and self-government in Iraq. We're helping to build a free Iraq, because the long-suffering Iraqi people deserve lives of opportunity and dignity. And we're helping to build a free Iraq, because free nations do not threaten others or breed the ideologies of murder. By working for democracy, we serve the cause of peace.
Democracy always has skeptics. Some say the culture of the Middle East will not sustain the institutions of democracy. The same doubts were once expressed about the culture of Asia. These doubts were proven wrong nearly six decades ago, when the Republic of the Philippines became the first democratic nation in Asia. (Applause.) Since then, liberty has reached nearly every shore of the Western Pacific. In this region of the world, and in every other, let no one doubt the power of democracy, because freedom is the desire of every human heart. (Applause.)
Sustaining liberty is not always easy. The world saw this last July here in the Philippines. And all free nations rejoiced when the mutiny against this government failed. People of this land fought too hard, too long to surrender your freedom to the conspiracy of a few. (Applause.)
All of you in this chamber are the protectors of Philippine democracy, charged with upholding the legacy of Rizal and Quezon. Member of the Philippine Armed Forces are commissioned to fight for freedom, not to contend for power. (Applause.) I'm certain that in the coming election, this nation will show its deep commitment to democracy and continue to inspire people throughout Asia.
In this city, on a January morning in 1995, Pope John Paul II addressed millions of the faithful. He spoke of the goodness of the Filipino people, and the strength of your democracy and the example this nation has set for others. He said, "May your life spread out from Manila to the farthest corners of the world, like the great light which shone in the night at Bethlehem." Ladies and gentlemen, the world needs the Philippines to continue as a light to all of Asia and beyond. (Applause.)
There is so much to be proud of in your beloved country: your commitments to democracy and peace, and your willingness to oppose terrorism and tyranny. The United States and the Philippines have a proud history. And we face the future bound by the strongest ties two nations can share. We stand for liberty, and we stand together.
May God bless. Thank you all, very much. (Applause.)
END 5:09 P.M. (Local)