U.S. to work closely with PH vs jihadists – Ambassador Goldberg

enablePagination: false
maxItemsPerPage: 10
maxPaginationLinks: 10

United States Ambassador Philip Goldberg talks about his country's role in the Mamasapano clash and bilateral relations in general.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) —The U.S. will continue to work closely with the Philippines in monitoring local groups who are pledging support to international jihadists, U.S. Ambassador Philip Goldberg told the media on Wednesday (February 3).

This is despite the withdrawal of a special U.S. military unit in Mindanao tasked to help Filipino forces combat terrorism.

Goldberg also confirmed his government's role in the controversial Mamasapano operation, where 44 elite police commandos, at least 18 Moro troops, and five civilians died.

However, he remarked that it is well within mutually-agreed arrangements under the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).

Contrary to what the Philippine Senate pointed out during a recent hearing, Goldberg said the VFA is a government-to-government deal — and not limited to cooperation between the armed forces of the two countries.

Goldberg said his government shares information and equips Philippine special forces in fighting terrorism, which includes the police commandos.

Philippine Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, in the reopening of the Mamasapano encounter probe in the upper chamber, had earlier questioned the participation of U.S. forces in what should have been a police operation.

“I think it is irresponsible to discuss those things publicly. They should be discussed for accountability sake in closed sessions of our Congresses, not just here, but in the United States,” Goldberg said.

Also read: President Aquino disregarded command systems of AFP, PNP — Enrile

The ambassador appeared to take a jab at how the Philippine lawmakers handled the investigation of the Mamasapano incident.

“We have a process for doing that in the United States. I have testified as a U.S. official in private session, in secure areas in the United States Congress. And those are the kinds of things that we should do to both assure accountability and release publicly those areas of policy, and of law, but not of specifics that can only reveal the kind of cooperation that we have that help people whom with very much like to know that information.”

Also read: Senate invites high-profile officials for the reopening of Mamasapano probe

On the reported presence of the terrorist ISIS group in the Philippines, Goldberg said that such is merely limited to displays of rhetorical support. However, the ambassador pointed out the need to constantly monitor these developments.

“We have to watch very closely to see if at any point, something develops more than this rhetorical situation. And we are concerned that something like that could happen that’s why we do watch it closely. That’s why we cooperate on counter terrorism; that’s why we share information; that’s why we work for the special forces in the Philippines.”

Goldberg stressed, the Mamasapano operation is just one of many joint efforts Manila and Washington are working on to combat global and homegrown terrorism.

Watch: Timeline of the Mamasapano case