Despite advisory, US envoy Philip Goldberg goes to Sulu
Despite the advisory issued by the United States to its citizens against traveling to Sulu, US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg went ahead with his first trip to Jolo on Monday to meet with local leaders, youth and American troops stationed there.
Goldberg checked on the US troops stationed on advisory capacity in Sulu, an area where Americans are urged against nonessential travel due to threats of abduction and violence related to insurgency and terrorism.
“This was his first visit to the island in the Sulu archipelago, and during his time there, Ambassador Goldberg held a meeting with the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines to discuss local concerns and how the United States and the Philippines can continue to work together to promote peace and security,” the US Embassy said in a statement on Friday.
The envoy, who has been traveling around the Philippines since his arrival here in November last year, also met with Filipinos who had traveled to the United States under a government-sponsored program.
“He also spent some time with a small group of alumni of US government youth exchange programs to hear about their experiences, and discuss how they contribute to their communities through volunteerism,” said the embassy.
Long riddled by conflict, Sulu is a priority area under the US government’s development program in the Philippines, receiving American support in education and police and military training programs as part of peace-building efforts in the area.
These programs include US State Department youth exchange programs such as the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange Study Program, a year-long exchange for high school students and the month-long Philippine Youth Leadership program on “conflict resolution and interfaith tolerance,” the embassy said.
Some 40 Jolo youth have been recipients of these exchange programs over the last 10 years.
1,300 officers trained
Meanwhile, the US Department of Justice supports capacity-building programs for the PNP. To date, it has trained 1,300 police officers under its International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program, which covers the areas of “community policing, media relations, basic police operations and crime scene investigation,” the embassy said.
The program also supported the creation of the PNP Training Center in Jolo, where police officials could directly receive quality training “instead of having to travel to Manila or elsewhere.”
The US Agency for International Development has also been supporting capacity-building projects on education, health services and governance in the city of Jolo, the town of Maimbung and other parts of the Sulu province.
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