President Rodrigo Duterte on Saturday said he has ordered the Philippine Air Force to use its recently acquired assets to crush terrorists in Mindanao, as the threat of Islamic State influence reaching the country's shores continues to grow.
In a speech before the Filipino community in Hong Kong, Duterte said he has ordered the Air Force to destroy IS sympathizers in Mindanao, such as the Maute Group and Abu Sayyaf.
“Yung ISIS kasi, sana huwag mangyari, but from Jolo they have migrated to Central Mindanao. We are talking to MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front), MNLF (Moro National Liberation Front). Ang hindi ko kayang kausapin ay yung mga terorista, yung Abu Sayyaf, one of them was adopted ng ISIS,” Duterte said.
“We have now a working Air Force. Kaya sabi ko sa mga piloto natin, you tour. I’m using it, noon kasi ang rebolusyon di ginagamit ang air assets. I have to deal with them as hastily as I could.”
The Air Force will soon receive the last two of its 12 FA-50 fighter jets from South Korea purchased during the term of former President Benigno Aquino III.
The jets were purchased as the Philippines, under Aquino, was facing an aggressive China in the disputed South China Sea.
Duterte once described the acquisition of the supersonic aircraft as a waste of money.
In the latest update to the government’s effort to crush the Abu Sayyaf, the military on Friday said at least 20 members of the terrorist group were killed in recent clashes in Basilan.
In a statement, the Armed Forces of the Philippines said intelligence reports estimate "no less than 20 ASG fatalities from the combined airstrikes and indirect fires" at an Abu Sayyaf campsite in Barangay Pamatsaken, Sumisip on Thursday.
"Our troops were able to cordon the enemy due to the accurate and timely indirect fires and close air support delivered by our Artillery and the Philippine Air Force,” said Col. Juvymax Uy, leader of the Joint Task Force Basilan.
"Also, the information being volunteered by the populace and LGUs provided critical details to validate the intelligence we have on hand.”