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PH ready to defend Middle East allies

DOHA, Qatar – The Philippines is ready to “stand by” its Middle Eastern allies and deploy government troops in case they come under attack, President Duterte declared on Black Saturday.

The President has offered to forge closer security cooperation in appreciation to the kindness and goodwill extended by Qatar, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia to the Philippines, from helping boost the nation’s growth to providing employment to Filipino workers.

“It is of our national interest to see to it that you are stable, that there is no trouble bugging you and we will stand by you,” the President said during a Philippines-Qatar business forum in Doha last Saturday night.

“I am even willing, if you are in trouble, if you are short with manpower, I have a very disciplined military and I can send them here,” he said, adding he made a similar commitment to Saudi Arabia and Bahrain during his recent visit there.

Duterte assured that the Filipino troops are “law abiding” and “well disciplined” and could be deployed to borders to “fight for national interest” as well as “protect and defend” the Gulf allies if needed.

His only appeal was for the Gulf states to provide food and shelter for the government forces due to his government’s limited funds. “They will fight for you. I said we will stand by you. If there is a need, we will do it,” the President said.

Duterte insisted that he does not need the permission of the United States or the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to deploy Filipinos troops to the Gulf region. “I am independent of them and I will only protect where our interest lies. There are millions of Filipinos here. You can be sure that if you need us, we will come here,” he said.

A day after the President’s remarks, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon clarified yesterday that the planned military assistance is simply part of the security cooperation with the Gulf states.

“It would be on a basis of training which we have yet to set up. This will probably take another six months to one year. This will be very selective and it will be probably based on specialized courses or training,” Esperon said in a media interview here.

“It’s a normal military-to-military cooperation, security cooperation,” he added. (Genalyn D. Kabiling)