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Minimal US aid for PH troops

The United States has provided “minimal” assistance to local troops battling extremists in Marawi City but the Philippine government will not ask for more, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said yesterday.

“I don’t think we need to ask kasi we already have a lot of equipment naman to contain this Marawi incident,” Lorenzana said in a Palace press conference about the US military assistance.

At present, Lorenzana confirmed that the Philippines and the United States have close defense cooperation, particularly in exchange of intelligence information on counterterrorism and maritime security, among others.

“We are still getting assistance through the operation of their drones, the shadows. They have three birds,” he said.

These US drones, however, have not reached Marawi “since it’s too far from Zamboanga where they operate the shadows,” he added.

He said a US long-range aircraft also shares intelligence information with local authorities. “They are giving us but I think very little for Marawi. But a lot from other areas like South China Sea, Sulu Sea, Sulu, Basilan, marami silang ibinibigay sa atin. But here, just very minimal,” he added.

Government troops have cleared a large portion of Marawi City of rebels and are now focused on addressing a “pocket of resistance” in the area, Lorenzana said.

He said the extremists are holed up in “reinforced buildings” and have deployed “many snipers around shooting at our soldiers.” “That’s the reason why actually why they are still there kasi they know they are protected by this stronghold,” he said.

The firefight has left 95 militants dead, including eight foreign terror suspects. (Genalyn D. Kabiling)