MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday vowed that the Philippines would not become the next hub of international terror network Islamic State, nearly two months after Filipino troops defeated the group’s sympathizers in Marawi City.
Duterte made this promise as he congratulated the Armed Forces of the Philippines on its 82nd founding anniversary, citing its triumphs this year including the liberation of Marawi City from ISIS-inspired Maute terrorists.
“This success, along with the recent neutralization of Isnilon Hapilon and his followers, further bolsters this administration’s firm thrust towards eliminating all terrorist groups in the country,” Duterte said in his speech at Camp Aguinaldo.
“We will not allow those who subscribe to the Daesh ideology to succeed. We will never allow the Islamic State to make the Philippines its regional center,” he added.
The government is now moving to rehabilitate Marawi City, which was under a terrorist siege for five months until their leaders, Isnilon Hapilon and Omar Maute, were killed.
“Although we have already begun to rebuild Marawi City and rehabilitate conflict-affected areas, our fight is far from over. We will remain vigilant as we continue our intensified military [operations] against the remaining terrorist groups,” he said.
The Marawi siege was deemed part of Islamic State’s bid to establish a province in the Philippines under its caliphate in Southeast Asia, where it has sought to gain foothold amid successive losses in Iraq and Syria.
Duterte earlier requested Congress to extend martial law in Mindanao for another year citing persistent security threats in the region despite the end of hostilities in Marawi City.
The legislature granted the extension until the end of 2018.
Duterte had warned in a previous speech that the terror network might exploit the Mindanaoans' discontent if Congress fails to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).
The BBL is the enabling measure of the peace compact signed by the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in 2014, which aims to create a Bangsamoro political entity with enhanced autonomy.
"Pero kung 'di natin ibibigay 'yan (BBL), kindly help me think of ways on how to do it kasi the other choice is if we go to war, it opens the floodgates of Mindanao to everybody else," Duterte said in a speech on Tuesday, warning of the possible spread of extremist ideology in Mindanao.
On Wednesday, senators vowed to tackle a "constitutional" version of the BBL draft in March. An earlier version had failed to pass because of provisions deemed non-compliant with the Constitution.