Two weeks ahead of a regional summit, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday (02/11) urged greater cooperation to battle Islamist militancy, following military victories in Iraq, Syria and the southern Philippine city of Marawi.
Philippine Foreign Minister Alan Peter Cayetano said Duterte would discuss the fight against terrorism, a key priority, with Asean leaders and regional partners, including US President Donald Trump, gathering at a summit in Manila on Nov. 13.
“The defeat suffered by the Islamic State in Iraq, Syria, and the Philippines does not mean the fight is over,” Cayetano said in a statement a day after an Islamic State-inspired attack in New York killed eight people and injured 11.
“The terrorist attacks in New York and other places abroad during the past several weeks tell us the threat remains real.”
In Marawi, soldiers killed two pro-Islamic State gunmen and arrested an Indonesian militant a week after the army declared victory over the Maute group, which occupied large parts of the lakeside city for five months.
It was the biggest security crisis in years for the Roman Catholic-majority Philippines, triggering concerns the island of Mindanao could become a magnet for Islamic State fighters driven out of Iraq and Syria.
More than 1,100 people, mostly rebels, were killed in the battle and air strike have leveled the heart of the city of 200,000.
Six army battalions are still in the ruined city hunting the remaining militants, who number about 40, based on information from the captured Indonesian, said Colonel Romeo Brawner, deputy commander of a military task force.
Cayetano said the Philippines, during the Asean summit, want to deepen and strengthen its cooperation with allies, by stepping up efforts to share intelligence, training and build resources, among others.
Also on the summit agenda are North Korea’s ballistic missile tests and nuclear weapons program, overlapping claims in the South China Sea and wider regional trade pacts.
The Philippines will urge its allies to step up efforts to hunt down Islamic State and affiliates worldwide. There are still two smaller pro-Islamic State militant groups in the southern Philippines.