World, Asia - Pacific

Duterte cancels Japan trip to deal with militant battle

Philippines president remains to handle efforts to drive Daesh-linked terrorists from Marawi City

31.05.2017
Duterte cancels Japan trip to deal with militant battle FILE PHOTO - Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte

By Roy Ramos

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines

 President Rodrigo Duterte’s office announced the cancellation of his trip to Japan on Wednesday so he can deal with the ongoing siege in Marawi City, local media said.

Government troops have been fighting for eight days to recapture the city on the southern island of Mindanao from Daesh-linked militants. On Wednesday, the military said it had retaken 90 percent of the provincial capital.

“The palace announced that President Rodrigo Roa Duterte will not proceed with his scheduled visit to Japan next month to address the 23rd Nikkei International Conference on the Future of Asia,” presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said, according to the state-run Philippine News Agency.

The statement added: “The president arrived at this decision due to recent developments in Marawi and Mindanao, requiring the chief executive’s undivided time and attention.”

Duterte had been due to attend the event in Tokyo on June 5-6. He travelled to Japan in October and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited the Philippines in January.

The president had to cut short his trip to Russia last week because of the Marawi crisis, which has seen the whole of Mindanao placed under martial law.

The attack on the city was launched by militants from Abu Sayyaf and the Maute group on May 23.

According to the military, more than 120 people have been killed in the violence, 89 of them terrorists. Around 100,000 people have been displaced.

Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla, spokesman for the armed forces, said 90 percent of Marawi City was under government control on Wednesday.

“That [remaining] 10 percent is most likely the area that is heavily guarded and defended by many armed men as if they are protecting an individual of high value,” he said.

That individual is believed to be Isnilon Hapilon, who is said to be the most senior Daesh figure in the Philippines. A failed attempt to capture him was made before the militants’ attack.

Padilla said eight Maute militants had surrendered to the government and provided valuable information.

“These individuals have been talked to and debriefed and have provided very, very valuable intelligence,” he said, broadcaster GMA News reported.

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