The White House, saying the United States "needs to do its share" to back democratic change in the Philippines, yesterday announced a package of $150 million in additional U.S. economic and military aid to the government of President Corazon Aquino.
The new assistance, to be obtained through reallocation of U.S. funds that must be approved by Congress, was described by the White House as the centerpiece of an effort that also involves better terms and quicker delivery of assistance that was previously authorized. In addition, the White House said it will also take measures to assist Philippine imports here and facilitate U.S. investment there.
The joint efforts of the United States, Japan, other donor nations and international financial institutions may pump about $1 billion in extra aid into the Philippines over the next 12 to 18 months, a White House official said.
American and Philippine officials have said that a sharp decline in the Philippine economy in the last years of deposed president Ferdinand Marcos must be reversed quickly if the new government is to be stable and popular.
Reagan, in a speech to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said "the Philippine people have new opportunities, economic and political" as a result of what he called the "upheaval" in that country. "As their friends, we wish them the very best and will help where we can," he said.
White House spokesman Edward Djerejian, in announcing the aid program, praised "the courage displayed by the Philippine people in resolving the recent political crisis in a nonviolent manner." He added that "the Philippine people have spoken and have begun to act. The United States needs to do its share to help them in their vital effort."
M. Peter McPherson, administrator of the Agency for International Development, said that speeded-up U.S. aid would amount to $405 million in addition to the $150 million in new assistance being announced.
Cuts will be made in unspecified Defense Department spending so that the new aid does not breach budgetary ceilings.
Nearly all of the new and speeded-up aid will be in the form of grants, said McPherson, in order not to add to the already-massive Philippine foreign debt of $26 billion.
Reagan, in a White House statement Jan. 30, promised "a significantly larger program of economic and military assistance" if free and fair elections were held and the winner undertook fundamental reforms.
The Feb. 7 elections were marred by massive fraud that led to the ouster of Marcos two weeks later under heavy pressure from the Filipino people, breakaway military forces and, in the final hours, from the U.S. administration.
While not harking back to the Jan. 30 statement yesterday, officials went out of their way to commend the Aquino government for its initial reforms.
Secretary of State George P. Shultz, in a Voice of America interview, said the Aquino government has "made reforms in the military" and is "facing up to" serious economic difficulties.
"There's a lot of sickness there and it's going to take plenty of medicine to get it straightened around.
"But I do think it is on a positive track, and we are encouraging and trying to be helpful in every way we can," Shultz said.