US pledges sup­port vs ter­ror­ism, af­firms Mu­tual De­fense Treaty

The Freeman - - NATION - (Philstar.com)

MANILA — The US has vowed to con­tinue as­sist­ing the Philip­pines against ter­ror­ism as clear­ing oper­a­tions in Marawi con­tinue and the gov­ern­ment pre­pares to re­build the coun­try's only Is­lamic City.

In a joint state­ment, the US and the Philip­pines agreed to en­hance their co­op­er­a­tion in coun­tert­er­ror­ism ef­forts, which could be in the form of additional mil­i­tary ex­er­cises, en­hanced in­for­ma­tion shar­ing and tack­ling of the roots of con­flict and ex­trem­ism.

US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump also ex­pressed his con­do­lences over the "tragic loss of life" in Marawi City fol­low­ing a deadly and pro­tracted siege by com­bined el­e­ments of the Maute group and the Abu Sayyaf, who mounted a five-month stand in the lake­side city's com­mer­cial cen­ter. More than 1,000 peo­ple per­ished in the bat­tle, most of whom com­bat­ants.

"Both sides discussed the re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion and re­con­struc­tion needs of Marawi and pledged to con­tinue dis­cus­sions for the re­build­ing of Marawi," the joint state­ment said.

Trump also vowed to sup­port the re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion of the war-rav­aged city whose down­town area has been re­duced to ruins and rub­ble and whose res­i­dents were forced to flee the fight­ing that be­gan on May 23 and lasted un­til Oc­to­ber.

"Pres­i­dent Trump ex­pressed his con­do­lences for the tragic loss of life in Marawi City at the hands of ISIS-af­fil­i­ated ter­ror­ists, and con­grat­u­lated the Armed Forces of the Philip­pines for its suc­cess in lib­er­at­ing Marawi," it said.

The siege of Marawi ex­posed loop­holes in the Philip­pine mil­i­tary's ca­pa­bil­ity to ad­dress ter­ror threats es­pe­cially in the light of the pos­si­bil­ity that some IS fight­ers in the Mid­dle East would return to their home coun­tries in South­east Asia as the group backpedalled in the re­gion.

The war was so de­struc­tive that De­fense Sec­re­tary Delfin Loren­zana es­ti­mated that at least P50 bil­lion would be needed to re­ha­bil­i­tate and re­build the cap­i­tal of Lanao del Sur prov­ince.

Washington and Manila also reaf­firmed their com­mit­ment to their Mu­tual De­fense Treaty of 1951 as re­in­forced by the En­hanced De­fense Co­op­er­a­tion Agree­ment dur­ing their lead­ers' bi­lat­eral meet­ing.

The two sides also discussed ef­forts of the US to help in the mod­ern­iza­tion of the Armed Forces of the Philip­pines, one of the weak­est mil­i­taries in the re­gion, de­velop ca­pac­ity and ca­pa­bil­ity for mar­itime se­cu­rity and do­main aware­ness and pro­vide hu­man­i­tar­ian as­sis­tance.

"They also reaf­firmed their com­mit­ment to con­tinue de­fense co­op­er­a­tion, in­clud­ing by re­in­forc­ing re­spec­tive national de­fense ca­pa­bil­i­ties and in­ter­op­er­abil­ity and en­hanc­ing joint ac­tiv­i­ties, dis­as­ter re­sponse, and cy­ber-se­cu­rity," the doc­u­ment stated.

Dur­ing their meet­ing, Trump and Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte praised the en­dur­ing al­liance of the US and the Philip­pines which they said was built on a strong foun­da­tion of shared val­ues, sac­ri­fices and his­tory, and bol­stered by com­mon in­ter­ests, peo­ple-to-peo­ple ties and full re­spect for le­gal and diplo­matic pro­cesses.

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