Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines to discuss Marawi issue

Kyodo News

Posted at Jun 20 2017 09:59 PM

Foreign ministers and security officials of Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines will meet Thursday in Manila to discuss the ongoing conflict in the southern Philippines and its impact on the region, the Indonesian Foreign Ministry said Tuesday.

Ministry spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir told a weekly media briefing that the meeting will focus on how the three countries can cooperate to prevent what is called the spillover of the violence in Marawi, a city on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao where Islamist militants have been battling government forces since May 23.

According to Nasir, the meeting was initiated by Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi, who proposed it about two weeks ago.

"It was earlier planned to take place in Indonesia, but the venue was then moved to Manila because Philippine government officials cannot leave their country due to the Marawi problem," Nasir said, adding that Indonesia will also send National Counterterrorism Agency Chief Suhardi Alius to the meeting.

"We need to hold the meeting because the situation has been worrying enough," he added.

During the meeting, Nasir said, Indonesia and Malaysia will listen to a briefing from the Philippine government about the developments in Marawi, the challenges faced there and the measures they are going to take, while Indonesia and Malaysia will share their views on how to deal with terrorism.

"They will also make a common working plan to fight terrorism and radicalism in the future, including those related to border control and law enforcement cooperation," he said.

The fighting in Marawi erupted on May 23 after government forces tried to serve an arrest warrant on Isnilon Hapilon, one of the senior leaders in the Abu Sayyaf Group.

The Abu Sayyaf, as well as another militant organization, the Maute group, both of which have pledged allegiance to Islamic State, subsequently occupied several areas of the predominantly Muslim city.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law in the entire Mindanao group of islands on the night of May 23 in the hope of quelling what he said was an "open rebellion."

The death toll from heavy fighting now totals 345, the Philippine government said Monday.