U.S. Ambassador Kevin Blackstone’s Remarks on the Signing Ceremony of the Joint Rehabilitation of Baucau Airfield Agreement

My Respects to:

  1. His Excellency, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Planning and Territory, Jose Maria dos Reis
  2. Her Excellency, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Adaljiza Magno

Good afternoon,
Today is a good day.  It’s a good day for Timor-Leste and for the United States, as it marks the beginning of the Joint Rehabilitation of Baucau Airfield, a project the Government of Timor-Leste has pursued for many years, and today is finally realized.  It also marks the start of additional discussions between the Embassy and the Government on potential support to Timor-Leste’s development of its civil aviation sector.

The two Memoranda of Understanding we are about to sign reflect the United States’ commitment to support Timor-Leste both in the areas of its own National Security and economic development.  The United States is proud to partner with you on these important projects, which, in my view, signifies our two countries’ mutual friendship.

The United States and Timor-Leste enjoy a longstanding security cooperation relationship and agreement.   We are pleased to support the Government of Timor-Leste’s efforts to create and professionally develop the F-FDTL’s Air Component, which will greatly contribute to the protection of Timor-Leste’s sovereignty, will increase maritime domain awareness, and help contribute to economic prosperity. I am pleased that the United States Government has allocated $10.6 million dollars for the development of the F-FDTL’s Air Component, and provide small-scale construction works to Baucau Airfield.  The United States is also prepared to provide additional support and I have made this offer to the Government. If you look around us, you will see photos of the actual equipment we are providing – all of this will belong to Timor-Leste.  This includes an American-made Cessna 206 surveillance aircraft that will allow to monitor Timor-Leste’s territorial waters – for example, to detect illegal fishing – and will also aid in disaster relief.  We expect to deliver this plane by the end of the year.  We will also provide a fuel truck, a fire truck, two Ford F-450 trucks, a runway sweeper, forklifts, and several other support vehicles and related airport equipment. A joint team of engineers from the U.S. military and F-FDTL will also construct a storage facility for this equipment at Baucau Airfield and upgrade a perimeter security fence around the airfield. As you can see, while this project builds the capacity of the F-FDTL, there are also opportunities for strengthening the civil aviation sector.   This support package benefits the potential commercial use of Baucau Airfield as well, which I have heard from government officials and local communities in Baucau that they desire.  Baucau has the potential to serve as an important link between Timor-Leste and the region.

To that end, I am honored to also sign a Memorandum of Understanding expressing our intention to explore opportunities to contribute to the development of Timor-Leste’s civil aviation sector.  Civil aviation holds a lot of promise here in Timor-Leste.  I look forward to discussions with the Government on ways the United States can support the diversification and vibrancy of Timor-Leste’s economy.

In closing, I want to again thank Vice Prime Minister dos Reis for your leadership on this joint project.  I would also like to thank the Prime Minister for his direct engagement and long history of support for the renovation of the Baucau Airfield.  As well, I greatly appreciate the Foreign Minister joining for this happy occasion.