PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte and Indonesian President Joko Widodo reaffirmed on Tuesday the security cooperation between the Philippines and Indonesia amid the growing threat posed by adherents of the Islamic State (IS) in Southeast Asia.
In a news conference, Palace spokesman Ernesto Abella said Duterte had a “productive and fruitful” phone conversation with Widodo on Tuesday.
“The call was productive and fruitful. They both reaffirmed the need to step up cooperation to address threats posed by terrorism and violent extremism,” Abella told reporters.
He did not say whether the two leaders talked about the revelation of Indonesian Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu in a Singapore security forum earlier this month that there were about 1,200 IS group operatives in the Philippines, including foreigners, of whom 40 were from Indonesia.
But Duterte and Widodo noted the importance of Wednesday’s trilateral meeting in Manila between Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines, which was aimed at “fostering cooperation on countering terrorism among regional neighboring states.”
“President Widodo reaffirmed Indonesia’s commitment to support the Philippines in countering terrorism, including restoring peace and stability in the southern Philippines,” Abella said.
Duterte welcomed Widodo’s “expression of commitment and emphasized the Philippine government’s full resolve to work closely together with Indonesia and like-minded states to address these issues,” Abella said.
The Duterte-Widodo phone conversation came amid the Philippine government’s offensive against the IS-linked Maute group in Marawi City.
The crisis prompted Duterte to declare martial law in the entire Mindanao, saying the Philippines was at the “crosshairs” of the IS, which wants to establish a province in the Philippines as part of its global caliphate.
The Palace said at least 276 suspected terrorists have been killed since the clashes erupted a month ago. The government has lost 67 of its men, while civilian fatalities remained at 26.
Some 500 civilians, including potential hostages, remain trapped in the battle zone, the military said.