By ARGYLL CYRUS B. GEDUCOS
Malacañang yesterday welcomed the offer of Australia to train the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to fight against the threat of the Islamic State (ISIS) in the country.
This as the war of the government troops against the ISIS-inspired Maute group in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur enters its 100th day today, Thursday.
Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella reiterated that the fight against terrorism is not only the concern of the Philippines, but of many nations around the world.
“Assistance, however, is limited to technical matters, training, and information gathering and sharing,” clarified Abella.
Abella added that Australia’s assistance will not involve any boots on the ground in accordance to our law prohibiting the direct participation of foreign troops in combat operations.
On Tuesday, the Australian government offered to help train the Philippine military as it called the threat of terrorism in the country “deeply concerning”.
Australia, which has an extensive defense cooperation program with Manila, has already deployed two AP-3C Orion aircraft for surveillance, and is keen to provide further help.
Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said Australia would be “ready to support the Philippines in the same way we are supporting Iraq in advising, assisting and training”.
“We indicated what we have been doing in Iraq. I went through with the president in some detail the support we have given in Iraq, that does not include troops on the ground. That is advising and assisting,” Bishop told reporters in Canberra.
Australia’s top diplomat also said that the United States, Malaysia, and Indonesia also made offers to help the Philippines.
Australia is part of the coalition fighting the ISIS group in Iraq and Syria, with 780 defense personnel based in the Middle East.
Bishop has met President Duterte earlier this month despite an earlier tension over the alleged extrajudicial killings in the country and cases of human rights violations brought about by the drug war.
Communications Secretary Martin Andanar earlier said that Bishop’s most recent visit last August 6, 2017 is proof of the Philippines and Australia’s improving alliance.
“The Australian Government has always been helpful during times of trouble in our country, including the Marawi Crisis,” said Andanar.