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Marawi won’t become IS hub, Palace assures

By GENALYN D. KABILING

The Duterte administration is confident that Marawi City won’t become a new regional hub of the Islamic State due to intensified military offensives against the extremists.

Given such optimism, the government is unlikely to seek a larger United States participation in the counterterrorism efforts in the conflict-torn area.

“At this stage, I suppose we’ll have to take the position that it’s unlikely for Marawi to become a new hub for IS fighters,” Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said in a Palace news conference.

“The Philippine military has already preempted the Maute group from establishing a wilayat or province in Marawi,” Abella said.

Abella tried to dispel concerns raised by some US senators about the possible rise of the IS fighters from the region. Some Republican senators have reportedly called for a bigger US role in fighting Islamic militants in the Philippines to ensure the Marawi conflict does not get out of control.

Abella however said the US assistance to the Philippine military will still be limited to technical assistance.

“The role of the US in relation to the IS is to provide technical assistance as prescribed by the Constitution and we will abide by that,” he said.

Asked if the American military aid was a sign of improving Philippine-US relations, Abella said such alliance has long been part of the existing defense cooperation pact.

He admitted that the President has “accepted” the government needs the assistance from foreign allies to defeat extremists threatening the country.

“He has accepted the situation at this stage,” Abella said, when asked if the President has changed his mind on refusing to see foreign troops on local soil.

The United States earlier confirmed offering military assistance at the request of the AFP to help in the battle against terrorists in Marawi. The US assistance is limited to information sharing and surveillance, and does not include troops engaged in combat operations on the ground.

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