MANILA- The Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia have agreed to enhance cooperation to effectively address the threat of terrorism and extremism just as Islamic State-linked terror groups continued to repel government forces in Marawi City.
In a joint statement Thursday, the three countries agreed to prevent extremists from making Southeast Asia or any country a base for their operations, and to help counter the “narrative” that the terrorists were waging a “legal jihad.”
“We don’t want that to happen in Southeast Asia nor anywhere else in the world. But the reality is while ISIS loses ground in Iraq and Syria, some of these jihadists, extremists will be looking for land bases outside Iraq and Syria,” Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said.
Asked if Indonesia and Malaysia shared information about their citizens allegedly involved in the Marawi conflict, Cayetano remained mum and instead said the meeting was held to help the Philippines with its current issues.
Foreign fighters, including those from neighboring countries, are known to have joined terror groups that launched attacks in Marawi City a month ago.
“Let me not answer that directly but let me just tell you this, the main purpose of the conference was not only to develop a framework to share but to share immediately today facts and intelligence that can help the Philippines at this point in particular and then the two countries," he said.
The three countries also agreed to cooperate on coming up with socio-economic programs to fight the causes of terrorism and not stop at finding a “military solution.”
The three countries tasked their respective senior officials to consider the proposed plan of action, in the context of measures including addressing the root causes of terrorism and underlying conditions of extremism such as poverty, narcotics or illegal drugs, crime and social injustice.
The 3 countries also vowed to work on enhancing intelligence and information sharing; stopping the flow of terrorist financing; containing the spread of terrorism and terrorism-related content in cyberspace, particularly social media; and preventing and suppressing the exploitation of technology and dissemination of terrorist messages.
The ministers agreed to hold their next meeting in Indonesia.
On Monday, the three countries launched trilateral patrols on the borders to prevent the movement of Islamic jihadists amid the crisis perpetrated by Maute group terrorists in Marawi City as well as calls of the ISIS terror group to mount attacks in the Philippines.