PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte was expected to talk over the phone with Indonesian President Joko Widodo on Wednesday to discuss the reported presence of Islamic State (IS)-linked terrorists in Mindanao.
Speaking to reporters in Cagayan de Oro on Tuesday night, Duterte said he was scheduled to talk to Widodo about the Indonesian defense minister’s claim that around 1,200 IS operatives were in the country.
“I’ll be talking to Widodo tomorrow (Wednesday). He will ask questions and I have so many questions for him kasi ang karamihan yata diyan na foreigners is mga Indonesians [because it seems a majority of the foreigners there are Indonesians],” Duterte said.
Indonesian Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu said in a security conference in Singapore early this month that there were about 1,200 IS fighters in the Philippines, including 40 Indonesians.
Ryacudu made the statement amid the ongoing battle between government troops and the IS-linked Maute group in Marawi City.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana earlier confirmed the deaths of foreign fighters in the Marawi siege, including Indonesians.
The military has said local bandits led by Isnilon Hapilon, allegedly the designated IS leader in the Philippines, were being aided by foreign terrorists.
In Malacañang, Palace spokesman Ernesto Abella said Duterte and Widodo would likely talk about security issues.
Abella however could not say who sought the phone call.