MANILA, Philippines – At the anniversary of the Philippine military, President Rodrigo Duterte vowed that the government will make sure the Islamic State (ISIS) does not succeed in its bid to make the Philippines its base in Southeast Asia.
"We will not allow those who subscribe to the Daesh ideology to succeed. We will never allow the Islamic State to make the Philippines its regional center," said Duterte on Wednesday, December 20, during a speech at Camp Aguinaldo.
He was speaking to an audience of military and defense officials, soldiers, and government officials on the occasion of the 82nd anniversary of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
Only a week ago, on December 13, Congress granted Duterte's request to extend martial law in Mindanao for one year, or until the end of 2018.
This was after Duterte and defense officials cited ISIS plans to establish a wilayat or province in Mindanao as basis for their recommendation to extend martial rule.
The Commander-in-Chief told soldiers he will need their help in purging the southern region of terror groups.
"Our fight is far from over. We will remain vigilant as we continue to intensify military operations against the remaining terrorist groups," said Duterte.
He also thanked the military, police, and other uniformed personnel for their sacrifice to ensure the liberation of Marawi City, held for 5 long months by ISIS-inspired terrorists.
He also spoke of them saving the Mindanao city from communist insurgents, though there have been no reports that communists had any participation in the Marawi siege.
"I salute the brave men and women of our Army, Air Force, and Navy for their courage, dedication, and sacrifice to liberate Marawi from the clutches of extremist terrorists and communist insurgents," he said.
He cited the killing of Abu Sayyaf leader and supposed emir of ISIS in Southeast Asia, Isnilon Hapilon, as a major milestone in the fight against terrorists.
"The success, along with the recent neutralization of Isnilon Hapilon and his followers, further bolsters this administration's firm thrust towards eliminating all terrorist groups in the country," said Duterte.
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.