Tabnak – For quite a while it seemed that the Philippines had become a weak link in the chain of US alliances worldwide, as its leader was persistently criticizing the US administration over a range of issues. However, it now appears that the two sides are coming to a new warm, mainly because of the existence of a common enemy.
Right after a meeting between the Philippine President Rodrigo Roa Duterte and the US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, speculations have been raised over a possible military operation by Washington in the Philippines in order to fight against ISIS-linked terrorists which have become a real headache for the Philippine leaders.
In a report published earlier on Tuesday, NBC News quoted two US defense officials as saying that the Pentagon is considering a plan that allows the US military to conduct airstrikes on ISIS in the Philippines.
According to the report, the authority to strike ISIS targets as part of collective self-defense could be granted as part of an official military operation that may be named as early as Tuesday, said the officials. The strikes would likely be conducted by armed drones.
If approved, the US military would be able to conduct strikes against ISIS targets in the Philippines that could be a threat to allies in the region, which would include the Philippine forces battling ISIS on the ground in the country's southern islands.
The US military has been sharing intelligence with the Philippines for years, according to Pentagon spokesperson Capt. Jeff Davis, who called it a "steady state." "We have had a consistent CT [counterterror] presence in the Philippines for fifteen years now," he said.
In late July, the United States supplied the Philippines with two new Cessna 208B Grand Caravan intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft, 1,040 rocket motors and 992 rockets to fight against terror. In addition, Manila is expected to receive 250 rocket-propelled grenade launchers from Washington.
However, talks of possible further US military engagement in the Philippines comes right after a meeting between the high-ranking officials of the two sides. According to the local sources, President Duterte reaffirmed the Philippines’s allegiance with the United States when he told visiting US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson that he was his "humble friend” in Malacañang on Monday afternoon.
At the meeting, Duterte assured Tillerson that the Philippines remains a good friend of the US and thanked the US top diplomat for coming to Manila even if the US is having problems of its own. "I know you’re worried there because you also have domestic problems. We are friends, we are allies,” Duterte said.
Regarding ISIS issue, it should be noted that on May 25, Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law on the southern island of Mindanao, which is often subjected to attacks by ISIS-linked terror groups. Marawi has remained the primary hotspot ever since the Maute group attempted to storm the city.