U.S. provides 'technical assistance' to troops in Marawi – AFP

MANILA, Philippines – The United States is providing "techical assistance" to Philippine troops battling local terrorists in Marawi City, the Philippine military confirmed on Tuesday, June 6.

Lieutenant Colonel Jo-Ar Herrera, military spokesman on the Marawi crisis, made the statement in response to questions in a news briefing in Marawi City on Tuesday.

Asked whether there was "US presence" in Marawi, Herrera said, "Some visited here for technical assistance."

He said that the Philippines and the US have a standing agreement on fighting terrorism.

"Well sa US, meron tayong agreement with the US counterparts in terms of combating terrorism. Katatapos lang ng Balikatan. These are all pertaining to exercises, training, technical assistance. 'Yan po ang ating cooperation with our US counterparts," Herrera said.

(Well, with regards to the US, we have an agreement with our US counterparts in terms of combating terrorism. Balikatan recently ended. These are all pertaining to exercises, training, technical assistance. That's our cooperation with our US counterparts.)

The 2017 Balikatan was the first annual Philippine-US military exercises under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte. Duterte earlier threatened to scrap the annual event because he wanted the Philippines to "realign" with countries like China and Russia.

When asked, Herrera neither confirmed nor denied if the US technical assistance included the use of unmanned aerial vehicles in Marawi.

"Masyadong detalyado na 'yun (That's going into too much detail)....They [US counterparts] provide technical assistance. Meron tayong cooperation in terms of training, subject matter experts exchange. ‘Yan lang  po ang ginagawa namin (We have cooperation in terms of training, subject matter experts exchange. That's all that we're doing)," he said.

On Saturday, June 3, US Defense Secretary James Mattis said the US stands with the Philippines in its "heartbreaking fight" in Marawi. 

The US has been helping the Philippines in its campaign against terrorism. In 2002, the US helped Philippine authorities track down Abu Sayyaf leader Abu Sabaya, who was killed in that operation. 

There were also 6 Americans who helped in the operations to nab Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir or Marwan in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, in 2015.

The Board of Inquiry said in its report on the Mamasapano operation that the Americans provided the Philippine National Police Special Action Force "real-time information on the actual movements of friendly and enemy forces in the area of operations" through "special technical equipment and aircraft, which they themselves operated." Rappler.com