MANILA, Philippines – There are no talks and there is no need for the United States military to conduct air strikes in Marawi City against local terror groups linked to the Islamic State (ISIS), Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told Rappler.
US media giant NBC News reported that the "Pentagon is considering a plan that allows the US military to conduct air strikes on ISIS in the Philippines." The report cited two anonymous defense officials.
"Wala kaming napag-usapan na tungkol diyan (We had no discussions about that)," Lorenzana told Rappler in a text message on Tuesday, August 8, when asked about the report.
But is there a need for the US to help conduct air strikes? "No need," Lorenzana said.
Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief General Eduardo Año also denied it is an option being considered. He said the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) with the US may not apply.
"Direct military actions may only be allowed during actual invasion of the Philippines by another state actor," Año said in a statement.
"Such proposition, if any, has to undergo a process. And a covenant must be had between the Commanders-in-Chief of both nations before that option may be adopted," he added.
The conflict between the AFP and local terrorists in Marawi City is now on its 3rd month, displacing nearly all of the city's estimated 200,000 residents. Another 200,000 from neighboring towns have fled.
According to the military, the operations there are now in the "last lap."
The US as well as Australia have been flying their P3-Orion surveillance aircraft over the Marawi City battle zone to help locate the terrorists in the densely commercial areas.
The two countries have visiting forces agreements (VFAs) with the Philippines, allowing the presence of their troops here but only for training and assistance.
US troops have been seen on the ground in Marawi City. But the AFP said they are there only to monitor Filipino units they have been training on urban warfare. (READ: Operations in Marawi 'all Filipino' – Westmincom chief)
On Monday, August 7, a Singapore Air Force C130 plane also landed at an airport near Marawi City to bring supplies for Filipino troops and evacuees. These included 30 sets of 5-men tents, 3,120 packets of field rations, 3 sets of medical supplies, 200 blankets, 1,080 bottles of water, and 64 pieces of dynamo lights. – Rappler.com