PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte on Monday thanked countries that help the Armed Forces of the Philippines liberate Marawi City from terrorists in his speech opening the 31st ASEAN Summit held at the PICC.
“Our ASEAN brothers provided support by sending relief items for the benefit of the internally displaced persons while others provided valuable assistance and bolstered our military campaign,” said Duterte.
“Less than a month ago, Philippine government forces liberated the city of Marawi from terrorist groups who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State. Resolute, we are now in the process of helping people back on their feet to reclaim their lives,” he said.
Fighting broke out in the city after government troops tried to arrest Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon and his cohorts last May 23. It officially ended on Oct. 23 after military units have neutralized Hapilon and Omar Maute, one of the co-founders of the terror group.
An estimated 923 terrorists were killed while 165 troopers were killed in the five-month battle aside from inflicting billions of pesos worth of damages to Marawi City.
The President said threats of terrorism and violent extremism is endangering the peace, stability and security of the Southeast Asia. Another key concern is piracy, which is putting a dent on the Philippines’ growth and contributing to the disruption of stability of both regional and global commerce.
Duterte also said the menace of illegal drug trade continues to endanger the very fabric of societies.
“These and other issues are high on the agenda of our meetings along with the other non-traditional security issues that challenge the prosperity of our economies, the integrity of our institutions, and more importantly, the safety of our people,” he said. PNA/rw: wjg