Obama, a Democrat, was elected the 44th US president in November, the first ever African-American to achieve such feat.
“No matter who is president of the United States, we are very interested in helping Mindanao achieve its economic potentials and become a peaceful place,” Kenney said in a New Year’s Day radio interview.
She said he country’s policies for the Philippines, especially for Mindanao, will not change with the takeover of a new administration.
Kenney said the US government will continue with its development works in Mindanao by providing health care and building roads, wells and bridges in impoverished, conflict-affected areas across the island.
US troops stationed in Mindanao will also continue providing intelligence information to the Philippine military as they are needed in line with the global fight against terrorism, she assured.
US troops have been staying in Mindanao cities like Zamboanga and Cotabato, providing intelligence assistance to troops going after the Abu Sayyaf, which is classified by the US as a terrorist group, and other lawless armed elements.
Kenney said the US government has “no intentions ever” of setting up a military base in Mindanao, claiming that US soldiers deployed in Mindanao come and go on a routine basis.
In 1991, the Senate rejected the extension of the US-RP Military Bases Treaty but the presence of American troops resurfaced with the ratification of the Visiting Forces Agreement in 1999.
Kenney said that Mindanao is crucial for the development of the Philippines, apparently referring to massive mineral resources still sitting untapped in the south.
“My wish this year for Mindanao is to become peaceful so it can achieve its extraordinary economic potentials…Mindanao is crucial for the Philippines,” she said.
Mindanao’s underdevelopment has been blamed on the decades-old conflict waged by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in the central part of Mindanao. In the island provinces of Basilan and Sulu, the military is going after the Abu Sayyaf while in several areas in Mindanao, the military is fighting the New Peoples’ Army.
Peace talks between the MILF and the government was stalled in August when the Supreme Court stopped the government from formally signing the already initialed Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain which would have given them an area for governance that would be bigger than the six-province, two-city Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
Kenney’s pronouncement of the US government’s continued support to the Mindanao peace process followed recent calls from diplomats from the European Union, who visited Mindanao last month, for the parties in conflict to resume the talks.
The two parties have yet to resume talks. (MindaNews)