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Australia to assist PH vs terrorists

By: Francis Wakefield and Reuters

Australia will send troops to assist Philippine forces in the ongoing battle against Islamic State-inspired Maute Group in Marawi City, Australia’s Defense Minister Marise Payne said.

Small contingents of Australian soldiers will be sent to train Philippine troops, Payne said during a press conference with her Philippines counterpart Secretary Delfin Lorenzana in Manila.

“We are very committed to supporting the Philippines in its efforts to defend itself against terrorist threats,” Minister Payne said.

“This is a threat to the region (that) we all need to work together to defeat.”

Lorenzana said the Australian troops will train with their Filipino counterparts within the confines of Philippine military bases. He made it clear that Australian troops will not join in the fight against Maute terrorists in Marawi.

“It would not look good if we will be needing them to fight the war here,” Lorenzana said, stressing that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has enough troops to fight the Maute terrorists.

Payne, who met with Lorenzana, said what they talked about is the deployment of small batch or batches of Australian Defense Force (ADD) teams that could help the AFP in specialized trainings dealing with terrorism.

“I think it’s important to recognize that this is in effect an engagement in long term cooperation which is about recognizing that the challenge we face from terrorists in this region is going to be exacerbated by the potential of retuning foreign fighters, people who have been in the Middle East in the midst of the most extremist terrorism behaviour of the world has seen in a very long time,” Payne said.

Payne, however, clarified that the trainings are still in the planning stage.

“I think as the secretary (pointed out) we will have our officials task to do the planning, that is a part of that and that sort of information will be finalized in that process and we’ll be advising in due course but not today,” she said.

Payne said having joint military exercises with the Philippines is no longer new to Australia considering the existence of an effective defense program between the two countries.

Lorenzana also took the opportunity to thank the Australian government for the assistance it provided to the Philippine military, especially the P3 Orions.

“We are happy with the assistance that we are getting from Australia, the P3 Orions and if they can send small detachment of Australian troops to train with our troops inside our bases,” he said.