President Duterte is set to discuss with Indonesia and Malaysia the possibility of creating a joint anti-terror task force.
The president even said he was willing to open his country’s borders to Indonesian and Malaysian security forces hunting Islamist terrorists.
He plans to meet with Indonesian President Joko Widodo and Malaysian Prime Minster Najib Razak to discuss the matter.
“We have agreed that we will talk, the three of us. We are just waiting for the right time,” he told reporters this week.
Asked what could be discussed, he replied: “In all probability, it will be a joint task force. And I will open my borders to the Malaysian authorities and Indonesian authorities. They’ll be given access.”
Southeast Asian nations have agreed to use spy planes and drones to stem the movement of militants across their borders, as concerns rise over the growing influence of the so-called Islamic State in the region.
Anti-terror task force
As we reported in June, the three nations agreed to pool intelligence and tackle the financing of terrorism.
Last November, the Philippines agreed to allow Malaysia and Indonesia to carry out “hot pursuits” in territorial waters to tackle kidnappings and piracy by Abu Sayyaf terrorists.
The president suggested that the meeting with Widodo and Najib could take place after the siege of Marawi City has been lifted.
More than 600 militants, 45 civilians and 136 soldiers and policemen have been killed in more than 100 days of fighting in the southern city.
The military and the president have recently expressed confidence the end is in sight.
Pockets of militants continue to hold out in the centre of Marawi. Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said it was believed Isnilon Hapilon, IS’s regional representative, or ‘emir’, was still among them.
“Recent military assessments indicate that he is still very much in Marawi,” Mr Abella said in a statement. “Our forces are hot on their heels and it will only be a matter of time before we get him.”
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