KASAMA Vol. 16 No. 4 / October-November-December 2002 / Solidarity Philippines Australia Network

Australia's Embassy in Manila closed its door "temporarily" on November 27 having purportedly received "credible and specific information of a threat" and issued a travel alert warning Australian citizens "to defer non-essential travel to the Philippines". The European Union, Israel and Canada also closed their embassies.

Despite the reassurance of Alexander Downer, Australia's Minister for Foreign Affairs, given to Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Blas Ople that the embassy "would reopen in a few days", it remains closed until sometime in 2003.

The Philippines condemned Australian Prime Minister John Howard's statement that he would be willing to take pre-emptive action against terrorists in other countries.

The Philippine Government will not allow Australia to use a proposed anti-terrorism accord to launch pre-emptive strikes against suspected Moro extremists anywhere in the country, Foreign Secretary Blas Ople said. Any move by Australia to change the United Nations Charter to facilitate Mr Howard's first strike plan to conduct unilateral counterterrorism operations in Asian countries would be strongly opposed by the Philippine Government.

Mr Ople described Mr Howard's proposal as "hasty, exuberant and almost bizarre …This proposal has no ghost of a chance to be supported in the UN General Assembly." He said it would overturn the founding principles of the UN that recognised national sovereignty.

Foreign Secretary Ople went on to say that Australia could open itself to charges of harbouring "hegemonic ambitions" if it pursued plans to send troops to Southeast Asia against terrorists in the region. "This is not helpful in terms of promoting understanding and cooperation in the Asia Pacific region," he said.

-with reports from the Courier Mail and Philippine Daily Inquirer
December 4, 2002