Philippines president travels to Sulu in Muslim south

Rodrigo Duterte to visit troubled island province amid operations against ISIL-affiliated Abu Sayyaf militants

Philippines president travels to Sulu in Muslim south

World Bulletin / News Desk

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte traveled Friday to a majority Muslim island province in the country’s troubled south where soldiers are battling a ISIL-affiliated group holding several foreigners captive.

Martin Andanar, presidential palace communications secretary, told reporters a military camp in Sulu’s provincial capital Jolo that the visit was a “regular inspection of President Duterte on the soldiers”.

"If you notice, our president is making his rounds in the different military camps throughout the country," he said at Camp General Teodolfo Bautista, describing such visits as part of the president's duty as commander-in-chief of the armed forces.

Duterte had earlier ordered troops to bring an end to kidnappings by the Abu Sayyaf militant group, which beheaded two Canadian hostages earlier this year after ransoms failed to be paid.

"The president's policy is to put an end to this useless kidnapping that affects our economy particularly Sulu peninsula, its neighboring provinces Basilan and Zamboanga," said Andanar.

Asked to comment on reports of a ISIL threat in the country, Andanar reiterated Duterte's remark that local militants’ links to ISIL could pose a problem in the future.

"That's why President Duterte is making rounds in the different military camps directing soldiers to beef up, strengthen their security and perform their mandate," he stressed.

The communications secretary, however, denied reports of Duterte planning to declare martial law in Sulu amid operations against the Abu Sayyaf and insurgent groups by saying, "it's rhetorical, I don't think so, the president can reform the country without martial law."

The Abu Sayyaf is one of two militant groups in the south that has pledged allegiance to ISIL, prompting fears during the stalling of a peace process with the country's largest Moro group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front that ISIL (MILF), that ISIL could make inroads in a region torn by decades of armed conflict.

The Malacanang presidential palace had earlier said that during Duterte’s Sulu visit, he was expected to meet with a fugitive leader of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) -- from which the MILF broke away due to disagreements over the peace process in southern Mindanao island.

Duterte had repeatedly expressed willingness to give Nur Misuari a safe-conduct pass to kickstart talks with the government.

Misuari’s faction of the MNLF launched a siege on the predominantly Christian city of Zamboanga in 2013 to protest a 2014 government-MILF deal that they consider a betrayal of their 1996 agreement. Around 300 people were killed and thousands of houses razed.

Peace panels from the government and the MILF are set to meet in Malaysia over the weekend to discuss the implementation of “all” peace deals signed with indigenous Moro rebels, as well as the crafting of a new autonomy law on the Muslim south. 

Güncelleme Tarihi: 12 Ağustos 2016, 11:36