Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano.
Manila, Philippines, 18 Ramadan 1438/13 June 017 (MINA) – The Philippines is seeking closer cooperation with Malaysia and Indonesia in the fight against terrorism amid President Duterte’s revelation that the leader of the Islamic State (IS) himself ordered the attacks in Marawi City, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said Monday.
Cayetano said the Marawi siege had affirmed Duterte’s warning that IS extremists would target Southeast Asian countries after staging atrocities in the Middle East.
“Unfortunately, we are the first (to be attacked). We want to cooperate very well with Indonesia and Malaysia so they won’t suffer at the hands of extremists,” Phlstar quoted Cayetano as telling reporters after the Independence Day rites in Rizal Park.
“The President knew from the start of his term that as allies become successful in Syria and Iraq, the IS will be looking for a land base and Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines are potential targets for them,” Cayetano added.
He said Indonesia has proposed a conference with Malaysia to discuss the situation in Mindanao and what the three countries can do to address the threat.
“Let me thank the Indonesian foreign minister for caring about what is happening in the Philippines and being concerned and trying to put this together. We will be able to respond to them in a day or two and announce to you the conference to be held,” the foreign affairs chief said.
Cayetano noted that the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and Russia have expressed support for efforts to fight terrorism in the region.
On Sunday, Duterte claimed to have received reports that IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi “specifically ordered the conduct of terrorist activities in the Philippines.”
Despite the serious threat posed by the extremists, the President said he had not sought help from other countries for the retaking of Marawi City.
“I have not done that. I have not made an appeal. I said I did not even know that the American government has been providing technical assistance,” the President told reporters in Cagayan de Oro City.
Cayetano said IS, which aims to establish a caliphate in the Philippines, is funding the activities of the Maute militants.
He claimed that the terrorists and their allies, who are involved in illegal drugs, sought to seize not just Marawi but at least two more cities.
“Well, we already saw money coming in. We already saw that others who are not really extremists but are into narco politics have joined them. Apparently the plan is much bigger but it seemed to have been preempted,” Cayetano said.
“They’re trying to take over more than Marawi City. They want to occupy a couple, at least two or three cities in Mindanao. Definitely the funding is there so the Maute group is auditioning. If they lose their base in Iraq and Syria, they have to find another base where they can establish a caliphate,” he added.
Japan reiterates support for Philippines
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has assured the Philippines of its continuing support for development priorities as well as the campaign against illegal drugs and terrorism, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).
In a statement, the DFA said Abe gave the assurance during the courtesy call of Cayetano, who went to Japan last week for a four-day working visit.
Cayetano represented the President, who cancelled his trip to Tokyo to monitor the situation in Marawi City.
“Secretary Cayetano and Prime Minister Abe had fruitful discussions on the state of Philippines-Japan relations and highlighted the friendship between Prime Minister Abe and President Duterte,” the DFA said.
“The Prime Minister assured the DFA secretary of Japan’s continued support for the Philippines’ development priorities and the campaign against illegal drugs and terrorism,” it added. (T/RS5/RS1)
Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA)