SYDNEY—Saying the war against terror can only be won by working together, the Philippines today said it is looking forward to further strengthening its counterterrorism cooperation with Australia and other countries.
“We had very good discussions with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull where we both reaffirmed, among others, our desire to strengthen our cooperation in the fight against violent extremism,” Secretary Cayetano said in a statement after his bilateral meeting with the Australian leader on Saturday afternoon.
“Prime Minister Turnbull has reiterated Australia’s commitment to help us counter-terrorism and asked us what they can do to help in the rebuilding of Marawi,” said Secretary Cayetano, who is representing President Rodrigo Duterte in the two-day ASEAN-Australia Special Summit being held here.
During the meeting, Secretary Cayetano conveyed President Duterte’s appreciation for the counterterrorism training that Australia has been providing to the Armed Forces of the Philippines. He said this has provided as many as 3,000 Filipino troops with much-needed skills in urban warfare.
The Secretary also mentioned Canberra’s assistance during the crisis in Marawi where it provided a surveillance aircraft that allowed government troops to flush out Islamic militants from the city.
“The Philippines cannot fight and win this war on its own. We need to work with the rest of the international community in the fight against terrorism,” Secretary Cayetano said as he cited continuing recruitment efforts of local armed groups in Mindanao that are affiliated with the Islamic State.
During their meeting, Secretary Cayetano also expressed Manila’s appreciation to the humanitarian assistance that Canberra had extended in the aftermath of several natural calamities in the Philippines.
Aside from counterterrorism, Secretary Cayetano and Prime Minister Turnbull also discussed human rights and rule of law as well as the West Philippine Sea, and people-to-people relations.
Secretary Cayetano thanked Prime Minister Turnbull for Australia’s fair approach to the human rights issue and welcomed his offer to assist the Philippines in further strengthening its rule of law efforts.
The Secretary later joined Prime Minister Turnbull and other ASEAN leaders in witnessing the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation to Counter International Terrorism between ASEAN and Australia.
The agreement contains practical measures to strengthen counter-terrorism efforts among ASEAN member states and Australia that include capacity-building in detecting and disrupting terrorist technology and financing.
In his remarks during the signing ceremony, Prime Minister Turnbull underscored the need for ASEAN and the rest of the region to work together to address the threat posed by violent extremism.
“Prime Minister Turnbull said that it is the responsibility of a leader to protect his people and this is just what President Duterte has been doing by going after not only drug lords and other criminal elements, but also terrorist groups,” the Secretary added.
With Secretary Cayetano in the bilateral meeting was Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez and Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo, Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Enrique Manalo, Ambassador Minda Cruz and other officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Department of Trade and Industry and the Philippine Embassy in Canberra.