Philippines reaches out to Indonesia as ISIS regroups
As ISIS-inspired terror groups begin to recruit online in Southeast Asia, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has sought the help of Indonesia to implement an improved maritime security plan and to reintroduce Islamic values to Mindanao to counter the rise of extremism.
Duterte arranged an exploratory meeting with Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi in Davao after receiving reports that foreign and local terrorists continue to enter and exit the country despite tightened Indonesia-Philippine-Malaysia maritime patrols.
Indonesia’s MoD earlier provided intelligence that around 1,200 ISIS-inspired militants are operating throughout the Philippines, while a think tank in Singapore reported that a hidden place in the southern Philippines is operating a training centre for new recruits.
While Duterte’s administration employed newly acquired China-made rifles, Israeli-built artillery and military aircraft to end last year’s siege of Marawi, the government realised that military equipment needs to be augmented by Islamic values education.
Foreign Affairs Minister Allan Peter Cayetano said Indonesia is one model for the kind of Islamic education that the Philippines and Southeast Asia can look at to counter the rise of extremism.
Three extremist groups in the southern Philippines pledged allegiance to ISIS: the Abu Sayyaf Group, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and Maute militant group.
These groups raided Marawi last year and declared jihad against Philippine security forces. The government sent 4,000 soldiers to contain the heavily armed extremists in the five-month battle.
More than a hundred soldiers plus at least 800 terrorists died in the conflict that displaced 350,000 civilians. The Philippines said it needs at least $1 billion to rehabilitate Marawi after the war.
The Indonesia-Philippine meeting occurred after the Philippine government received new information that extremist groups are planning another siege in one of Mindanao’s four major cities.
While military officers claimed a huge victory by killing ISIS leader for Southeast Asia Isnilon Hapilon, the Philippine defence department warned that ISIS ideology in the Philippines might linger.
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