PSG to secure Pope Francis from ISIS

By Lynda Jumilla, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 25 2014 08:36 AM | Updated as of Sep 26 2014 03:23 AM

NEW YORK CITY - President Aquino said the Philippines is ready to support the United States in its military campaign against the Islamic State as the airstrike against the violent extremist group entered its third day.

"Of course, we want to do something doable and within our capabilities without posing undue risks through their forces or the country at large," he said in an interview Tuesday night (local time) shortly before he flew back to the Philippines.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario was scheduled to meet with US State Department officials here on Wednesday - the same day that US President Barack Obama addressed the United Nations General Assembly and called on the world "to join us in this effort" of destroying "the network of death."

"The Secretary of Foreign Affairs is meeting with some State Department officials to get more details exactly, if they are asking for assistance and what manner of assistance - what is the assistance they are asking from us actually, which we will review," the President said.

Aquino's support for Obama's action against the Islamic State is reminiscent of his predecessor Gloria Arroyo who signed up the country to George W. Bush's "Coalition of the Willing" against Iraq in 2003.

Aquino's stance comes after reports that about a hundred young Filipinos from Mindanao have left to join Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

The President, however, downplayed fears the Islamic State has extended its reach to the Philippines.

"Yung ISIS (in Mindanao)…parang it's still the same groups na pinoproblema natin: Abu Sayyaf, baka 'yung BIFF (Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters) are doing basically the same things, but now attributing it to their joining ISIS, which doesn't necessarily mean that they are ISIS," he said.

POPE'S VISIT

Just the same, President Aquino assured the safety of Pope Francis during his visit to the Philippines in January following threats of assassination from the extremist group.

As Vatican head of state on a state visit as well as on an apostolic mission, the Pope will be secured by the Presidential Security Group.

"We're not going into details (but) kung ano 'yung ina-afford sa akin ng PSG na effort, I want to see them double the effort, especially for the head of the Holy Mother Church," the President said. "There shouldn't be any incident while he's in our country."

In 1995, authorities revealed a foiled plot to assassinate Pope John Paul II during his visit to the Philippines.