AFP and USPACOM Agree on Guidelines to Recover Remains of WWII Soldiers

Rear Admiral Miguel Jose S. Rodriguez, the AFP Deputy Chief of Staff for Civil-Miltary Operations, and MG Stephen D. Tom, the Commanding General of the U.S. Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC), signed the Implementing Guidelines for the Conduct of JPAC Activities on 3 August 2012 at the EDSA People Power Revolution Memorial Lounge of the Department of National Defense. The Guidelines serves as the framework for the activities between the AFP and civilian agencies, and the US JPAC in the research, investigation, recovery and forensic review of the remains of US World War II Prisoners of War (POWs) and Missing-in-Action personnel (MIAs) in the Philippines.

In his remarks, Undersecretary of National Defense Honorio S. Azcueta, head of the Philippine delegation, noted that the JPAC is a tribute to the long-standing ties of brotherhood and camaraderie between the Philippines and the U.S. He acknowledged the effort and time that both sides took in ensuring that the Guidelines would ensure that JPAC missions will respect PH national laws, regulations and existing agreements such as the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).

In response, the head of the U.S. delegation, Mr. Robert Riley, Acting Deputy Chief of Mission of the U.S. Embassy in the Philippines, expressed his appreciation for the efforts of both sides in drafting and finalizing the guidelines. He noted that joint humanitarian missions such as JPAC activities underscore the true breadth of cooperation between the two countries. At present, there remain over 11,000 American and Philippine individuals in the Philippines lost during World War II.

After the signing, MG. Tom conveyed his appreciation to the PH and U.S. teams responsible for concluding the guidelines and emphasized the uniqueness of the JPAC activities as humanitarian missions. He noted that the JPAC will undertake all efforts to recover the remains of all unaccounted personnel “until they are home”, the motto of JPAC. Admiral Rodriguez closed the signing ceremony by expressing the AFP’s readiness to support JPAC missions that will be participated by Philippine and U.S. military and civilian offices. He stressed that the excavations for missing remains can be likened to searching for treasures as World War II heroes are national treasures who played a key role in making the alliance as robust as it is today.