The United States government agreed to extend the grant worth USD 1 million for the establishment of a Maritime Command Center, which will be run by the Philippine National Police (PNP), to combat piracy and terrorism in this city. The pledge to extend the grant was made during the visit of U.S. Ambassador Sung Y. Kim in this city on Thursday.
Mayor Maria Isabelle Climaco-Salazar told the Philippines News Agency that the U.S. ambassador agreed to the extension period of the grant, since the PNP has yet to settle the land title of the area where the command center will be constructed.
The city government said they are eyeing for the construction of the Maritime Command Center to begin within the year.
The center will be located in Barangay Bolong, a coastal village located 32.60 kilometers east of city hall.
The Maritime Command Center aims to beef up security measures to curb the presence of terrorists, smugglers, pirates, and other criminal groups in the area.
“The city of Zamboanga expressed its gratitude to the U.S. government for its continued support to the city,” Salazar said after their closed-door meeting with the U.S. ambassador.
She said this city has been getting technical as well as financial support from the U.S. government through its development arm, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), especially after the 21-day September 2013 siege.
Among the U.S. interventions in this city are the Water Security for Resilient Economic Growth and Stability (Be Secure) project; skills training for out-of-school youth under the Mindanao Youth for Development, wildlife trafficking assistance, and improving the city government’s operations in centralizing and streamlining business permit processing.
“We have a very big support from the U.S. government through the USAID,” Salazar said.
The U.S. ambassador, who declined to be interviewed by the media, also went to visit Camp Navarro to talk with U.S. troops and top Filipino military officials there.
Camp Navarro houses the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) headquarters in this city.
The U.S. government has maintained a small contingent with around 100 soldiers in this city to help the Philippine military in anti-terrorist operations by way of providing intelligence, monitoring capabilities, and technical training.
The U.S. facility inside Camp Navarro used to be the base of the defunct Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTFP).
The presence of the U.S. troops here began at the height of the global war on terror in 2001 under the “Balikatan” military exercise program.