The Daily Manila Shimbun


Philippines assuages concerns of foreign governments over Marawi crisis

May 30, 2017

Philippine government officials, led by Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, on Tuesday allayed concerns of the international community regarding Mindanao, which has been placed under martial law due to the terror attack in Marawi City. Cayetano, along with officials from the security agencies, briefed some 150 members of the diplomatic corps at the Department of Foreign Affairs headquarters in Pasay City. "May I assure you that the President (Rodrigo Duterte) and the government remains steadfast in its commitment to uphold the Philippine Constitution and ensure that efforts to ensure peace and order are done with due regards to the laws and preservation of our people’ constitutional rights. In other words, no abuses," he said in his opening statement. According to Cayetano after about an hour’s briefing, one of the "concerns" raised by the foreign diplomats was security of their nationals, particularly those in Mindanao. He said his office would be coordinating with other government agencies to determine the number of foreigners in southern Philippines. "Just like Filipinos, the concern was, one, their nationals and to have direct lines with the DFA. The AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) also offered direct line of their commanders to assure the different embassies of assistance to their nationals," he said. He said there were also questions from diplomats why the imposition of martial law covers the entire Mindanao, the length of the imposition, the scope, and "how powerful" the Maute Terror Group is which is sowing terror in Marawi. "We focused on the facts on the ground and also on the legal framework," Cayetano said, adding, "we tried to simplify and many of these countries have had their own challenges with terror attack and some of these countries have had areas where terrorist groups have had bases or some influence. "They do understand that in situations like this, what we're trying to avoid is that what we call as domino effect," he added. During the briefing, he said it was revealed the Maute Group, which has links with the Islamic State of Syria and Iraq, had been trying to attract the other "bigger" Muslim groups in Mindanao, such as the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Moro National Liberation Front to go "into all out war." He said the government thanks these groups, which are its "peace partners" for sticking it out for autonomy and later on for federal form of government. "So the ISIS group is failing in trying to attract the bigger groups that have been fighting for against historical injustice in Mindanao," he said. Interior and Local Government Assistant Secretary Epimaco Densing III said other concern raised was the security in other areas outside Mindanao. He said the government assured the diplomats that there was no intelligence report of possible spillover of the problem to Metro Manila and that the DILG's directive to the Philippine National Police is to be "in above normal security status." Cayetano said the government did not divulge other details to the foreigners because they are "either classified or was not shared due to the operational security." Most diplomats offered words of condolences due to the deaths of innocent lives in Mindanao, he said. There were also who expressed willingness to assist the war-torn Marawi by providing livelihood once the situation normalizes, Cayetano added. (Celerina Monte/DMS)