MANILA - The US affirmed on Monday its support for the Philippine government's efforts against terrorism, just after President Rodrigo Duterte denied that he sought Washington's help in ending the siege of Marawi City by Islamic State-linked militants.
"The United States proudly stands with the Philippines as a longstanding ally, especially as the country confronts challenges associated with terrorism and extremism, including recent attacks in Marawi City and elsewhere," US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a message for the Philippine Independence Day.
"We admire the resilience and strength of Filipino people in battling adversity and building a more prosperous and secure future."
Tillerson, extending US President Donald Trump's congratulations and best wishes to Filipinos, added that Americans "honor the enduring US-Philippine alliance."
The Philippines military said on Saturday US forces were providing technical assistance but had no "boots on the ground," confirming a statement from the US embassy in Manila which said the support had been requested by the government.
Duterte however said that he had "never approached America" for help and that he was not aware of US support in Marawi.
The cooperation between the longtime allies in the battle is significant because Duterte, who came to power a year ago, has taken a hostile stance towards Washington and has vowed to eject US military trainers and advisers from his country.
It is unclear whether the pro-American military went over Duterte's head in seeking US help.
As of Saturday the number of security forces killed in the battle for Marawi stood at 58. The death toll for civilians was 20 and more than 100 had been killed overall.
At least 200 militants are holed up in a corner of the town. An estimated 500 to 1,000 civilians are trapped there, some being held as human shields, while others are hiding in their homes with no access to running water, electricity or food.
The military has said it is aiming to end the siege by Monday, the Philippines' independence day. -- With Reuters