President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday said he expects Russia to help the Philippines in its fight against terror as government forces continue their operations to clear Marawi City of Maute terrorists.
In his speech during the 26th anniversary of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology at Camp Aguinaldo, Duterte said he has sought to reduce the Philippines’ reliance on the United States and build much closer ties with China and Russia.
“So I changed a little bit. So I started to — not really separate. Because we have this RP-US pact. So I could not enter into any other military alliances, that would be a violation of the treaty,” Duterte said.
“I can always go to other nations for help in fighting terrorism,” the President added. “I expect Russia to help us in due time; China has sent it. There will be another shipment of arms in September.”
He was referring to the firearms recently donated by the Chinese government. Officials have said that the rifles and ammunition worth 50 million yuan given to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) will be used by government troops battling members of the Maute Group that seized parts of Marawi City two months ago.
China also donated P15 million for the rehabilitation program in Marawi City.
The US earlier revealed that it was providing “technical assistance” to government troops fighting Maute terrorists.
The Palace said the assistance is under the Philippines-US Mutual Defense Treaty, which allows the two countries to support each other if either would be attacked by an external party.
Duterte had repeatedly denounced the US and its supposed interference in Philippine affairs. In a speech in Vietnam in September last year, Duterte said he wanted to stop the Philippine troops’ war games with the US.
Flush them out
The President on Tuesday said he needed 15 more days to end the crisis in Marawi City, where state troopers have been battling the Mautes for almost two months.
Military officials said they will do their best to flush out the terrorists within that time.
“The 15 days is a period within which the President hopes the crisis in Marawi to end. The AFP will do its best, as it has been giving its level best, to crush the rebellion of the Maute-ISIS Group,” Col. Edgard Arevalo, chief of the AFP public affairs, said, using another acronym for the IS.
Arevalo noted that Duterte is aware of the “complexities” of the clearing operations because he is briefed regularly.
Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Ronald de la Rosa echoed Arevalo’s statement.
“He (Duterte) is very much aware of the situation. He is being briefed every now and then about the situation and he came up with [the 15-day]assessment,” de la Rosa told reporters in a chance interview in Camp Crame.
As government turns its focus to the rehabilitation of Marawi, Health officials said helping residents there get back on their feet will be a long process.
“Rehabilitation will take years. This will not happen in the next few months. This will take years,” Assistant Secretary Eric Tayag said in a TV interview.
Tayag said health officials are monitoring Marawi evacuees for signs of post-traumatic stress disorder, which may lead to depression and anxiety.
“’Yung sitwasyon po kasi, ‘pag displaced population, limited ‘yung resources po nila. Overcrowding. Kahit anong inam po ng pagkakaplano, at mabigyan sila ng sanitation services, safe water, magkakaroon talaga ng problema
[The situation is, if it is a displaced population, there are limited resources for them. Overcrowding. Even if we plan it thoroughly and we provide them of sanitation services, safe water, we will still have problems],” he said.
The DoH is holding dialogues with local health units and evacuees themselves to cater to their specific needs.
“Nakikipagpulong po kami sa kanila. Halimbawa, nagdala kami ng portalets. Ayaw nilang gamitin. Kailangan talaga sa pagpaplano nito, may pag-uusap para nang sa ganun kailangan nga nila naitutugma namin na siya naman naming binibigay [We are conferring with them. For example, we brought portalets but they refuse to use it. It is really important to hold consultations so that we can provide the things that they really need),” Tayag said.
With Kenneth Hernandez and Dempsey Reyes