PH taking war against terror seriously – Palace

MANILA-- MalacaAang on Thursday said that Philippines is taking the war against terror seriously and has in fact expanded the anti-terror campaign by also addressing the root cause of radicalism.

In a Palace briefing, Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella pointed out that the government has been fighting terrorism in the Philippines for many years, and as early as August last year, President Rodrigo Duterte already told the Philippine military to be ready with ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria).

A month and a half into his presidency, the President had already warned the military of what he termed the ISIS disease, he said.

The Palace official said that as the government continue to confront terrorism, it has also taken a holistic approach in the campaign by also addressing one of the root causes of radicalism -- poverty.

We recognize that poverty in Mindanao and the sense of hopelessness it brings spawns terrorism. It is for this reason that while we are fighting terrorism, we are also fighting poverty. The President has already approved the Comprehensive Peace Roadmap which aims to provide peace and development by addressing the issue on the Bangsamoro, Abella said.

As they say, we can sign a hundred peace agreements but if those on the ground do not immediately feel the dividends of peace, those agreements will [not] be sustainable. In other words, what we are doing is we are really confronting it, engaging the situation with the whole systems approach, he added.

His statements were issued following reports that the Philippine campaign against terror has taken a backseat due to President Duterte's focus in the war against drugs.

On Wednesday, the US State Department released a report which named the Philippines as among five countries where the highest number of terror attacks were recorded in 2016.

In its 2016 US Country Reports on Terrorism, the agency said more than half of the 11,072 worldwide attacks last year took place in Iraq, Afghanistan, India, Pakistan and the Philippines.

"The emergence of ISIS-affiliated extremist groups, persistent kidnappings by the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), attacks on government forces, and bombings, all indicated that domestic and international terrorism remained a serious problem," the report said.

The report said Philippine security forces kept up pressure on terrorist organizations but were unable to prevent numerous attacks against government, public, and private facilities, primarily in central and western Mindanao.

The US government report also said that President Duterte's war on drugs has shifted manpower and resources of security forces away from the fight against terrorism.

"The focus on counter narcotics has increased workload and operational tempo for security forces. Specialized law enforcement units possess some necessary equipment, but numerous unfulfilled needs remain, and sustainment and maintenance of equipment often exceeds fiscal and human resources," the report read.

However, the same report noted that Duterte has pursued a federal system of government and peace talks with rebel groups in a bid to curb the spread of radicalism in Mindanao.

"The government's goal is to reduce radicalization and the attraction of terrorist groups by providing greater political and economic autonomy for Muslim-majority areas of Mindanao," the agency said.

It also noted that Philippine agencies have enhanced investigative, crisis response and border security capacity.

The US State Department likewise assured that Washington continues to work with Manila to monitor terror activities, and provide training and equipment to troops.

Source: Philippines News Agency