AMERICAN lawmakers have expressed alarm over the growing threats by Islamic State militants in Southeast Asia, calling for a bigger US role in countering the extremist threat in the Philippines.
“I don’t know that ISIS are directing operations there but they are certainly trying to get fighters into that region,” said Republican Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa, a member of the US Senate Armed Services Committee. “We need to address the situation. It should not get out of control.”
He also urged the US military to restart a higher-profile, “named operation” helping the Philippines in countering IS threats in the region.
Malacañang, however, rejected the need for greater collaboration with Washington, saying that Marawi City won’t be a new hub for Islamist fighters in Southeast Asia.
“It’s unlikely for Marawi to become a new hub for IS fighters,” Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said in a Palace news briefing Tuesday.
“The Philippine military has already preempted the Maute group from establishing a wilayat or province in Marawi,” he added.
Despite this, Abella said that Duterte has accepted that government troops needs US help to flush out terrorists in Mindanao.
“He [Duterte] has accepted the situation at this stage,” Abella said when asked if the President was wavering on his earlier stance that foreign powers should not meddle in internal affairs.
The military allowed the entry of armed US personnel near war-torn Marawi City to provide technical assistance and surveillance information gathering against the terrorists.
Abella, however, insisted that Washington should only provide technical assistance, noting that the law prohibits foreign troops from participating directly in combat operations.
“The role of the US in relation to IS is to provide technical assistance as prescribed by the Constitution and we will abide by that,” he said.
US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis had earlier said that US military operations in Mindanao is helping Philippine forces contain extremist forces but only in an “advise and assist” role and providing aerial surveillance to help the Philippines retake Marawi from IS-inspired groups.
In Davao City, the city council is working on an ordinance penalizing anyone who recruits or pledges allegiance to ISIS or any local terrorist group associated with it.
Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte said on Tuesday that the ordinance is already approved for first reading and they are now fine-tuning the details.
He said that they will be the discussing the ordinance in second reading two weeks from now.
Vice Mayor Duterte said that they are going into the minute details to ensure that the ordinance does not violate the privacy of the people.
Duterte said that the council cannot prevent anyone to worship who they want or make a flag of their own, however, if they can see that it is an act of terrorism then they will immediately impose the law to prevent what happened in Marawi City.
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