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Wesmincom: No Americans involved in operational matters

Government troops head to the frontline as fighting with Muslim militants in Marawi city enters its second week Tuesday, May 30, 2017, in southern Philippines. Philippine forces pressed their offensive to drive out militants linked to the Islamic State group after days of fighting left corpses in the streets and hundreds of civilians begging for rescue from a besieged southern city of Marawi. AP Photo/Bullit Marquez

MANILA, Philippines — “To tell you frankly, ang operations natin sa Marawi is basically all-Filipino ‘yan.”

That is what Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr.,  Western Mindanao Command chief, reiterated when asked about assistance given by the United States forces in the fight against Islamic State-inspired terrorists in Marawi City.

Galvez clarified that American help is more on training, intelligence sharing and technical assistance.

“Ang pakinabang sa US [ay] confirmatory [lang], pero lahat ng ginagawa sa taas…basically lahat ng ginagawa doon kami lang talaga, [mga] Filipino,” Galvez said at a press briefing in Cagayan de Oro.

“Sa operational matters, walang Amerikanong involved,” he added.

The Westmincom commander also said that no equipment in the field came from the US since their materials are not compatible with those used by Filipino troops. He added that the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ equipment are procured and made in the country.

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Galvez added that even the drones being used in Marawi are owned by the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Last Monday, the US formally transferred counterterrorism weapons and equipment to the Philippine Marine Corps although delivery began in May.

READ: US turns over rifles, counterterrorism equipment to Marines

While no troops or equipment are sourced from the US, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the US had been providing vital intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) even before the Marawi City clash. Galvez said they also source out “very elaborate” maps from the US force.

On Saturday, US embassy spokesperson Molly Koscina confirmed that US forces are providing technical assistance against the local Maute terrorist group. Her confirmation came after television reports of a US P3 Orion surveillance aircraft flying over Marawi on Friday.

Lorenzana explained that US P3 Orion can operate anywhere in the country but that the Philippines recently asked US counterparts to help survey the conflict area and bring “them closer to the action [so] they can advise better.”

Galvez however said the AFP has yet to receive recent information taken from the US P3 Orion because intelligence has to undergo a verification cycle and the information “cannot be given immediately.”

Bayan questions US participation

The participation of US forces in the fight against the Maute has been met with criticism by Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, an umbrella group for national democratic organizations.

"We oppose US meddling and intervention in the Marawi crisis. The US still has a lot to answer for when it comes to the people of Mindanao. No less than President Duterte explained this before. However, their participation in the conflict contradicts Duterte's earlier pronouncements on an independent foreign policy," Bayan said in a press statement Sunday.
 
Bayan was referring to massacres in Mindanao by US forces during its colonization of the Philippines, which Duterte brought up last year to counter human rights concerns that the US raised over the Philippine government's war on drugs. Duterte, in speeches critical of US President Barack Obama, said the US must apologize for the Battle of Bud Dajo, where American soldiers killed around 600 Moros in 1906.
 
Bayan also asked whether intelligence on Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon and the Maute Group that security forces used for an operation that led to hostilities in Marawi City on May 23 came from the US.
 
"Did the US urge the AFP to carry out the arrest of Hapilon at the exact time Duterte was in Russia, with the knowledge that things may get out of hand and affect Duterte's Russia trip?" Bayan also asked.
 
Gen. Eduardo Año, Armed Forces of the Philippines chief-of-staff, and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana were in Russia with the president when the clashes started, as was National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon and Philippine National Police Director General Ronald Dela Rosa. 
 
"The Duterte regime has backtracked on its vow to remove foreign troops from PH soil and has now allowed foreign intervention in a domestic issue. There will be serious repercussions," Bayan, which supports a resumption of stalled peace talks between the government and communist rebels, said. 
 
Bayan and other organizations that advocate national democracy view imperialism, especially by the US, as one of the root causes of social injustice in the Philippines.

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