World Bulletin / News Desk
President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday thanked Australia, China, Russia and the United States for helping liberate the southern city of Marawi from Daesh-linked terrorists at a meeting of defense ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
Defense ministers of the 10 member states of ASEAN including Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam along with dialogue partner countries Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, Russia and the U.S. were attending the 11th ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting (ADMM) and 4th ADMM-Plus at a former U.S. airbase in Clark in Pampanga province.
In his address, Duterte took the opportunity to thank China and Russia for the firearms they donated and the U.S. and Australia for their help with intelligence and military expertise, according to a report by Rappler.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana also acknowledged the “substantial assistance” provided by the countries during the Philippines’ combat operations in Marawi and their assurance of continuing support in the country’s fight against terrorism.
“I thanked (U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis) for the assistance the U.S. has given us in the fight against terrorism in Marawi city, which I think is substantial assistance to us, like the use of their assets such as surveillance planes and drones,” said Lorenzana, as quoted by the state-run Philippine News Agency.
“They also provided us some information about terrorism,” he said.
Australia’s Defense Minister Marise Payne also announced their defense force would send mobile training teams to provide urban warfare counter-terrorism training in the Philippines in the same manner as they are assisting Iraq.
The Australian government in August earmarked $20 million worth of aid over the next four years for the nearly 300,000 people displaced by the clashes in Marawi in addition to emergency food and other supplies worth $920,000 announced in June.
Lorenzana also noted China’s aid. Aside from the $392 million worth of firearms received by Manila last June and early this month, the Chinese government has donated 35 units of heavy equipment that will help in the reconstruction and rehabilitation of Marawi.
Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua guaranteed Beijing’s support for its friend and partner.
"I’m glad China is the first country to donate and deliver rehabilitation equipment to the Philippines. There is a Chinese saying, that is, ‘When you want to do something good, then do it timely’," said Zhao in a speech distributed by the Chinese embassy to local media.
"The equipment arrived just when the reconstruction of Marawi city is about to begin. The donation is timely, and it is going to (be) put to use immediately," he added.
The Chinese government also donated $1.26 million for the treatment of troops wounded in clashes in Marawi. It also gave $97,000 for troops killed and wounded in the clashes and another $290,000 last June to support relief operations and rehabilitation efforts in the war-torn city.
“It is not only because combating terrorism is the shared responsibility of all nations, but also, and more importantly, that we are close neighbors, partners and friends," said Zhao.
Philippine-China ties improved when Duterte opted to temporarily set aside Manila's territorial dispute with Beijing over the South China Sea in order to revive economic relations.
"I am fully confident that under the wise leadership of President Rodrigo Duterte, the rehabilitation and reconstruction of Marawi City will be a complete success," Zhao said.
The conflict in Marawi prompted Duterte to place all of the Mindanao islands in the southern Philippines under martial law on May 23, which is not set to expire until the year’s end.
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