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Philippines willing to buy Russian arms

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) meets with his Philippine counterpart Rodrigo Duterte at the Kremlin, in Moscow, on May 23, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

The Philippines’ President Rodrigo Duterte has expressed interest in purchasing advanced Russian weaponry to combat terrorism and narcotics trade in his country.

During a Tuesday meeting with President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, Duterte said, “I came to secure your support and to confirm our friendship.”

He described Russia as a “reliable partner” and underlined Manila’s willingness to develop ties with Moscow and buy Russian arms.

“Of course, our country needs modern weapons. We had orders in the United States, but now the situation there is not so smooth, and in order to fight with ISIS with their units and factions we need modern weapons,” Duterte said, using an English acronym for the Daesh terrorist group.

The Philippines and the US have downgraded their military ties over Washington’s criticism of Duterte’s trademark war on drugs.

Prior to his Monday arrival in Russia, Duterte had indicated interest in purchasing small arms, helicopters, and fighter jets from Russia for use in the war on drugs and against the militancy in the Philippines.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte reviews an honor guard on his arrival at Moscow’s Vnukovo Airport, May 22, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

The Philippines’ president, however, had to fly back home earlier than planned due to skirmishes between Daesh militants and government forces in the south of the country. His meeting with Putin was moved forward from Thursday to Tuesday.

In the meeting, Duterte expressed regret over having to leave Russia earlier than planned to deal with the emerging crisis in his country. He said Daesh had “occupied the [southern] province [of Mindanao], and there are still fighting and clashes there.”

A 60-day martial law has been imposed in the province.

During their meeting at the Kremlin, Putin said, “Of course, cooperation in the military-technical field is possible.”

Putin expressed his condolences to Duterte over the death of three Philippine security forces in clashes with the Daesh-linked Maute terrorist group following their occupation of parts of the Marawi City.

Putin said he and the Russian people “fully understand” why Duterte had to cut his visit short.

The Russian president further said that despite Duterte’s early departure, the two governments would still sign the full set of documents that had been prepared by their respective delegations.

“Your ministers will stay here, and tomorrow, this package of documents, which is aimed at the development of our bilateral relations, will be signed,” Putin added.

Duterte also had to cancel his Wednesday meeting with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev due to the developments back home.

Philippine policemen check evacuees from Marawi aboard a van at a checkpoint at the entrance of Iligan City, on the southern island of Mindanao, May 24, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

The Philippines’ presidential spokesman, Ernesto Abella, announced during a press briefing in Moscow that the “government is in full control of the situation and is fully aware that the Maute/ISIS and similar groups have the capability, though limited, to disturb the peace.”

Also speaking in Moscow was Filipino Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, who said that additional soldiers would arrive in Marawi on Wednesday morning to expel terrorist snipers from the city.

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In a separate development, an Australian official announced on Wednesday that Southeast Asian and Pacific countries would hold a summit in August to coordinate against the security threat posed by homegrown Daesh-linked militants returning from battlefields in Syria and Iraq.

Australian Attorney General George Brandis further said he would co-host the summit, to be also attended by Malaysia, the Philippines, and New Zealand, in the Indonesian city of Manado in the last week of August.

“The focus of the inaugural meeting of the regional ministers summit on counterterrorism will be... returning foreign fighters,” Brandis told a Senate committee. “It is the issue which is of greatest concern to heads of government and homeland security ministers in the region when it comes to counterterrorism.”

Hundreds of Takfiri militants are returning to their homes in the Asia-Pacific region as Daesh terrorists continue to lose ground in Syria and Iraq. Authorities in the Asian countries fear that they would plot and launch terrorist attacks at home.

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