MANILA, Nov 13 (Mabuhay) — President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday expressed gratitude to ASEAN member states and other international partners for their assistance in the recently-concluded campaign against the Maute Group terrorists in Marawi City.
“Less than a month ago, Philippine government forces liberated the city of Marawi from terrorist groups who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State. Resolute, we are now in the process of helping people back on their feet to reclaim their lives,” the Chief Executive said.
He thanked these nations in his speech during the opening ceremony of the 31st ASEAN Summit held at the Cultural Center of the Philippines.
“We thank our international partners for providing assistance in dealing with the situation in Marawi City,” Duterte said.
“Our ASEAN brothers provided support by sending relief items for the benefit of the internally displaced persons while others provided valuable assistance and bolstered our military campaign,” he stressed.
Fighting broke out in the city after government troops tried to arrest Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon and his cohorts last May 23.
It officially ended on Oct. 23 after military units have neutralized Hapilon and Omar Maute, one of the co-founders of the terror group.
An estimated 923 terrorists were killed while 165 troopers were killed in the five-month battle aside from inflicting billions of pesos worth of damages to Marawi City.
“Your Majesty, Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, I apologize for setting the tone of my statement in such a manner. But I only want to emphasize that our meetings for the next two days present an excellent opportunity for us to engage in meaningful discussion on matters of regional and international importance,” Duterte said.
These threats include terrorism, violent extremism which the President said is endangering the peace, stability and security of the Southeast Asian due to their borderless nature.
Another key concern is piracy which is putting a dent on the Philippines’ growth and contributing to the disruption of stability of both regional and global commerce.
Also, Duterte said the menace of illegal drug trade continues to endanger the very fabric of societies.
“These and other issues are high on the agenda of our meetings along with the other non-traditional security issues that challenge the prosperity of our economies, the integrity of our institutions, and more importantly, the safety of our people,” the Chief Executive said.
Relatedly, Duterte said that he and other ASEAN leaders will be looking on the progress of the regional bloc’s community building efforts.
“Your Majesty, Excellencies, in the coming days we shall be looking at the progress of ASEAN community-building and the direction of what our cooperation with our dialogue partners as well as that of the ASEAN-led mechanisms such as the ASEAN Plus Three and the East Asia Summit,” he said.
Also, Duterte said he is pleased to announce that ASEAN member states have come to an agreement on the ASEAN consensus on the protection and promotion of rights of migrant workers.
“I will be joining other ASEAN leaders tomorrow (Tuesday) in signing this landmark document that would strengthen social protection, access to justice, humane and fair treatment, and access to health services for our people,” he stressed.
The President said other deliverables that will see the fruition include those concerning health, women and the youth, terrorism, radicalization and violent extremism, trafficking, poverty alleviation, food security, coastal and marine environment, and the pursuit of innovation for our economies, among others. (MNS)