PH, Australia commit to strengthen cooperation vs terrorism

MANILA, Philippines – Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull met with Philippine security officials on Monday, November 13, to commit to stronger cooperation in fighting terrorism in the region. 

"We are in the same fight [against terrorism]. Now more than ever the Australian Defense Force (ADF) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) are working together, supporting each other, learning from each other, and fighting the fight, we cannot afford to lose," Turnbull said in a statement to the media on Monday. 

Turnbull visited the Philippine military headquarters, Camp Aguinaldo, to meet with security officials and witness a little war game between Australian and Filipino troops. (READ and WATCH: Turnbull visits Camp Aguinaldo, witnesses PH-Australia war game)

AFP chief of staff General Rey Guerrero said they presented the AFP capabilities and concerns in fighting terrorism, particularly the threat from international terrorist network Islamic State (ISIS). 

"We have agreed that the military to military cooperation between the ADF and the AFP should be strengthened. In that regard we have agreed to push through and strengthen our activities, particularly in the area of intelligence and border protection," said Guerrero. 

Turnbull highlighted the need for cooperation given the nature of the Islamic State (ISIS), the international terrorist network, whose radical ideology has spread worldwide.

Turnbull hailed the Philippine military's operations to flush out ISIS-linked armed groups in Marawi City, where they sought to establish an Islamic caliphate. 

Australia, a treaty ally, provided assistance. They flew surveillance planes to help the Philippine military locate the enemies in the difficult urban terrain. They also provided assistance to Marawi residents displaced by the war. 

Turnbull said they will continue to assist in the rehabilitation of Marawi.

"We cannot afford to let them have a foothold anywhere else, let alone in our region. Everything is connected – Syria, Iraq, the Philippines, Indonesia, and the Straits of Australia. We are all connected," Turnbull said. – Rappler.com