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US eyes airstrikes vs militants in Marawi

By FRANCIS T. WAKEFIELD

The United States is considering a plan that would allow airstrikes against militants in Marawi City and other parts of the Philippines allied with the Islamic State but the Armed Forces said the US cannot do so without the approval of the Philippine government.

Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Eduardo Año said the government has yet to formally receive a formal notice or offer from the US to conduct airstrikes.

“As reported in the media, this is ‘a plan’ being considered. We at the AFP have yet to receive any formal notice or offer for such air capability deployment,” Año.

He said the existing Mutual Defense Treaty provides that only technical assistance and training may be allowed under the Mutual Defense Board-Security Engagement Board.

He said direct military actions may only be allowed during actual invasion of the Philippines by another state actor.

But Año said the military appreciates the United States offer. “We appreciate Pentagon’s reported desire to help the Philippines in the fight against Daesh-inspired Maute Group because terrorism is a global menace that the community of nations must unite to fight against,” he said.

“However, such proposition, if any, has to undergo a process. And a covenant must be had between the Commanders-in-Chief of both nations before that option may be adopted,” Año added.

The Department of National Defense said there were no discussions between them and the US regarding the use of drones against militants in the Philippines.

It echoed Año’s statement that such measure is not within the provisions of the MDT and direct military actions are only allowed during actual foreign invasion by another state actor.

“Hence, such proposition has to undergo a process and an agreement must be reached that should have the approval of both the highest officials of our nation,” DND Public Affairs Director Arsenio Andolong said.

Andolong said Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana thanks the US for its desire to help the Philippines fight local terrosists.

Although Philippine-US security relations and counter terrorism efforts are robust, Andolong said US assistance has been limited to technical assistance, sharing of information, and training.

“Terrorism has indeed become a global menace that the community of nations must unite against. ASEAN of late has issued strong statements on the matter,” Andolong added.

American news network NBC reported the US plan to conduct airstrikes against militants in the Philippines.

Two American defense officials told NBC News that the authority to strike IS targets in the Philippines as part of collective self-defense could be granted as part of an official military operation that may be named as early as Tuesday (yesterday in the United States). The airstrikes would likely be conducted by armed drones.

The Armed Forces has been fighting militants in Marawi since May 23. The Armed Forces Joint Task Force Marawi said 528 militants and 122 soldiers and policemen have been killed in the conflict. Security forces have recovered 603 firearms from the militants and clearing 15 more buildings.

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