MANILA—President Rodrigo Duterte promised on Tuesday that Islamic State extremists would "never" gain a foothold in the country.
Duterte said foreign terrorists have no place in the Philippines, as he honored troops in Jolo, Sulu, during the celebration of Araw ng Kagitingan (Day of Valor). Like last year, Duterte skipped the commemoration rites in Bataan.
"Your efforts have brought us closer to our ultimate objective of totally crushing the violent extremism at its roots. With this, I can confidently declare that ISIS will never gain foothold anywhere in the Philippines," the President said in a speech in Barangay Bus-Bus in Jolo.
"And I purposely . . . dito ako pumunta sa Araw ng Kagitingan. Lahat ng Pilipino deserves the title 'kagitingan.' But here in Jolo, yung pinaka . . . ang pinaka nandito. Kaya to the gallant men of Jolo, you have my everlasting gratitude for what you are doing to our country."
(All Filipinos deserve to be called valiant, but the most valiant ones are here in Jolo.)
Earlier this year, a double bomb attack rocked the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Cathedral in Jolo, leaving at least 22 people dead. The incident prompted the President to order the military to "destroy" the Islamic State-inspired terrorists in the restive south.
"As your commander-in-chief, I salute you and give you honor to the valiant soldiers who were injured or who gave their lives during the recent military operations here in Sulu. Let me assure you that you have . . . the government continues to prioritize your welfare and that of your families," Duterte said.
The President also promised to release more funds for soldiers to ensure the welfare of their respective families.
"Kaya ako naman sinasabi ko, when you fight, I will protect you, the utmost. And lahat ng hiningi niyo ibinigay ko halos (I have given almost everything that you have asked for)," he said.
Threats of Islamic State militants began with local terror group Maute, which pledged allegiance to ISIS and laid siege to Marawi City.
The attack prompted Duterte to place all of Mindanao under martial law, which is set to end in December.