Philippines must solve Marawi crisis to prevent further uprisings, says defense secretary

Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, right, shakes hands with US Ambassador to the Philippines, Sung Kim. (Arab News photo)
Updated 28 September 2017

Philippines must solve Marawi crisis to prevent further uprisings, says defense secretary

MANILA: 127 days into the ongoing Marawi crisis, the Philippine authorities have yet to establish how Daesh-inspired Maute fighters and foreign jihadists laid siege to the country's only Islamic city; the capital of Lanao del Sur province on Mindanao island.

“We have not yet discovered how (the foreign fighters) got in,” said Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Tuesday in a joint press conference with the US Ambassador to the Philippines, Sung Kim, to mark the end of a bilateral multi-agency counterterrorism drill called Tempest Wind. “A lot of them (have come) from Malaysia, Indonesia, from Jolo, Sulu, Basilan and other places in Mindanao.”

Aside from members of the Maute group, Lorenzana said around 25 foreign jihadists are believed to have entered Marawi, and over half of them had been killed so far.

The defense chief added, “We are going to intensify our intelligence efforts. We are trying to upgrade technical capabilities with the help of the US and other countries.

“I think we have no choice but to really solve this problem because if we do not, then it will crop up again in places other than Marawi,” he continued.

Kim agreed, saying, “It's obvious that we face a real threat.” The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), he said, are now doing everything possible to contain the situation.

He stressed that the US and the Philippines would continue to strengthen their alliance in the fight against terrorism, saying “counterterrorism requires cooperation,” and pointed out that Tempest Wind — which took place as the Philippines faces its biggest internal security crisis in years — was just the latest example of the two countries’ close ties.

“It was a challenging drill for both sides, intended to test and improve the ability of our nations to plan, coordinate, and conduct counterterrorism operations,” the ambassador said.

The drill included a scenario involving a real commercial airliner filled with over 150 actors who played hostages to create a realistic environment in which to test bilateral interagency decision-making and tactical response.

“What we learned through this exercise will help us focus future bilateral training to enhance our crisis-response capabilities,” said Kim. “Counterterrorism continues to be a shared priority for our two nations, and of course important to the entire region.”


South Korea to deploy anti-piracy unit to the Strait of Hormuz

Updated 22 January 2020

South Korea to deploy anti-piracy unit to the Strait of Hormuz

  • South Korea will not officially be joining a coalition of forces known as the International Maritime Security Construct

SEOUL: South Korea’s military said on Tuesday it plans to expand the deployment of an anti-piracy unit now operating off the coast of Africa to the area around the Strait of Hormuz, after the United States pressed for help in guarding oil tankers.
Attacks on oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz off the coast of Iran last year prompted US officials to call for allies to join a planned maritime security mission.
While South Korea, a key US ally, will deploy its forces to the area, including the Gulf, it will not officially be joining a coalition of forces known as the International Maritime Security Construct, the defense ministry said.
“The South Korean government decided to temporarily expand the deployment of the Cheonghae military unit,” a ministry official told reporters, adding that the step would ensure the safety of citizens and free navigation of South Korean vessels.
The decision to divert the navy unit already operating southwest of Arabia is a political compromise that will not require fresh authorization by parliament ahead of an election in April.
The Cheonghae unit will continue with its mission while it cooperates with the coalition, the ministry said, adding that the United States had been briefed on the decision, which was also explained to the Iranians separately.
The United States welcomes and appreciates South Korea’s decision to expand the mission of its Cheonghae anti-piracy unit to the Strait of Hormuz, William Coleman, spokesman for the US Embassy in Seoul, told Reuters on Wednesday.
“This decision is a demonstration of the strength of the US-ROK alliance and our commitment to cooperate on global security concerns.”
The Iranian embassy in Seoul had no comment on the matter.
The Strait of Hormuz is a busy passageway into the Gulf, with vessels sailing through it approximately 900 times a year for South Korea, which gets more than 70% of its oil from the Middle East, the defense ministry says.
Sending troops to the area has been a politically sensitive issue in South Korea ahead of the election.
A survey by pollster Realmeter last week showed 48.4% of South Koreans were opposed to dispatching soldiers to the Strait, while 40.3% supported the idea.
Tuesday’s move was broadly supported by lawmakers although some said it could risk Iran ties and the safety of South Koreans in the region. A number of progressive activist groups issued a statement criticizing the decision and said they will stage a protest in front of the president’s office on Wednesday.
The Cheonghae unit has been stationed in the Gulf of Aden since 2009, working to tackle piracy in partnership with African countries as well as the United States and the European Union.
The 302-strong unit operates a 4,500-ton destroyer, a Lynx anti-submarine helicopter and three speed boats, South Korea’s 2018 defense white paper showed.
Among its operations were the rescue of a South Korean ship and its crew in 2011, shooting eight suspected pirates and capturing five others in the incident.
The South Korean troops have also evacuated South Korean citizens from Libya and Yemen, and as of November 2018 had escorted around 18,750 South Korean and international vessels.
South Korea, the world’s fifth-largest crude oil importer and one of Iran’s major oil customers, stopped importing Iranian crude from May after waivers of US sanctions ended at the start of that month.