DND confirms Aussie assistance in Marawi City conflict

MANILA — Australia will be providing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) support to the Philippine military — in the form of two AP-3C Orion aircraft — as fighting with the remaining Maute Group remnants in Marawi City reaches its first month anniversary Friday.

This was confirmed by Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana in a statement.

The aircraft will be coming from the Australian Defense Forces (ADF), he added.

ISR assistance will be effective for two weeks upon a mutually agreed date by military officials of both countries.

“We welcome any technical assistance that our allies can provide while the Armed Forces of the Philippines is in the process of developing such capabilities,” Lorenzana said.

Meanwhile, Australian Defense Minister Marise Payne said the Philippine government has accepted her country’s offer of two AP-3C Orion aircraft to provide surveillance support to the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

“The regional threat from terrorism, in particular from Daesh and foreign fighters, is a direct threat to Australia and our interests. Australia will continue to work with our partners in South East Asia to counter it,” Payne said in a statement.

Australia condemned the attacks by Daesh-inspired groups in Marawi City.

Payne said she and Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana have agreed “the best way to defeat terrorism in our region is for us to work together.”

Fighting with the Maute Group terrorists started shortly after the military tried to apprehend Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, a staunch ally of the lawless elements, last May 23.

As of this posting, the death toll in ongoing fighting is placed at 268 Maute Group terrorists, 66 soldiers and police officers and 26 civilians.

“With these AP-3Cs from the ADF, our troops can benefit from enhanced airborne surveillance of the area any time of the day thereby improving operations on the ground,” the DND chief stressed.

Lorenzana noted that the AP-3C Orion aircraft will immediately assist in the ongoing operations as soon as the Armed Forces of the Philippines and ADF finalize operational details.

The operation of these aircraft will not require the embedding of ADF personnel with Filipino troops on the ground.

The Philippines and Australia have an extensive Defense Cooperation Program that provides the mechanisms for military support, intelligence sharing, and people to people exchanges.

“In the fight against global terror, we need to act as a community of nations. Any help and support we can get from our friends and allies will always be welcome,” Lorenzana said. Priam Nepomuceno with Leslie Venzon/PNA-northboundasia.com