Palace: Aus­tralia’s of­fer of as­sis­tance to AFP lim­ited to ‘tech­ni­cal mat­ters’

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Mala­cañang on Wednnes­day wel­comed the as­sis­tance of­fered by Aus­tralia to the Philip­pine troops in a bid to counter ter­ror acts per­pe­trated by Is­lamic State (IS) fight­ers.

In a state­ment, Pres­i­den­tial Spokesper­son Ernesto Abella said the Duterte gov­ern­ment was open to any aid from for­eign coun­tries that would help the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) quell in­sur­gency in the strife-torn south­ern Philippines.

“The of­fer of Aus­tralia to train the AFP is most wel­come. The fight against ter­ror­ism – to re­it­er­ate -- is not only the con­cern of the Philippines, but it is a con­cern of many na­tions around the world,” Abella said.

“The Philippines has in many oc­ca­sions ex­pressed its will­ing­ness to re­ceive as­sis­tance from for­eign coun­tries if they of­fer it,” he added.

Ac­cord­ing to re­ports from Agence France-Presse, Aus­tralia has of­fered to “ad­vise, train, and as­sist” the Philip­pine mil­i­tary.

The Philip­pine forces are cur­rently fight­ing IS-linked mil­i­tants aim­ing to oc­cupy Marawi City in Lanao del Sur prov­ince. The armed strug­gle emerged on May 23.

The con­flict be­tween the Philip­pine gov­ern­ment troops and Is­lamist ex­trem­ists prompted Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte to de­clare mil­i­tary rule in Min­danao.

Aus­tralian For­eign Min­is­ter Julie Bishop said she al­ready told Duterte about Aus­tralia’s in­tent to ex­tend as­sis­tance to AFP.

“I went through the Pres­i­dent in some de­tail the sup­port we have given in Iraq, that does not in­clude troopa on the ground. That is ad­vis­ing and as­sist­ing,” Bishop said.

Abella like­wise said Aus­tralia’s as­sis­tance is lim­ited to “tech­ni­cal mat­ters,” not­ing that di­rect par­ti­pa­tion of for­eign fight­ers is a vi­o­la­tion of the law.

“As­sis­tance, how­ever, is lim­ited to tech­ni­cal mat­ters, train­ing, and in­for­ma­tion gath­er­ing and shar­ing,” Abella said.

“It will not in­volve any boots on the ground in ac­cor­dance to our law pro­hibit­ing the di­rect par­tic­i­pa­tion of for­eign troops in com­bat op­er­a­tions,” he added.

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