MANILA - The United States has donated a P75-million law enforcement and medical facility to Tawi-Tawi province, continuing aid provisions to its long-standing ally.
The US-funded Law Enforcement Center in Taganak, Tawi-Tawi will provide a forward base of operations for soldiers and policemen securing the southwestern sea border, the porous backdoor guarded for terrorism and piracy threats.
The center will also serve as the first community medical facility in the Turtle Islands.
The facility, completed in March after a five-year construction, was funded by the US Department of Defense Pacific Command Joint Inter-agency Task Force West.
US Deputy Chief of Mission Michael Klecheski handed the facility to the Philippine National Police Maritime Group (PNP MG), the Philippine Navy, and the Philippine Marines in rites on Wednesday, "in support of the shared U.S.-Philippine goal to strengthen maritime public safety," the US Embassy in Manila said in a statement Thursday.
The US, the Philippines' strongest security ally, has been engaged in the development of a special maritime unit with the Philippine National Police (PNP) over the past 10 years in an effort to strengthen maritime safety along coastal Palawan and the sea border with Malaysia, the Embassy said.
Since 2008, the US has donated 10 patrol boats, 2 PNP Maritime Group headquarter facilities and several outstations to the Philippines, in addition to providing training and equipment to local troops, it added.
Amid the Duterte administration's foreign policy shift meanwhile, two US senators recently sought to restrict the import of arms from the US to the Philippine police amid growing international concern over President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody narcotics crackdown.
The administration has downplayed concerns over deaths in the war on drugs, saying roughly 2,700- not 9,000 or more commonly reported- were slain in presumed legitimate police operations.
Several local and international human rights advocates have criticized Manila’s drug war, citing blatant human rights violations.