Philippines seeks more funds to fight pro-IS militants
The Philippine military yesterday called for more funds to root out pro-Islamic State group militants, more than three months into a deadly offensive costing the government more than $50 million and devastating a southern city.
The crisis in Marawi city has posed a serious threat to the government of President Rodrigo Duterte, who has deployed thousands of troops and imposed martial law across the southern third of the country.
Nine days ago Duterte declared the battle was in its "final stages". But his government revealed yesterday the defence department has asked Congress for a supplemental budget for the campaign.
"The cash register is clicking daily as the fighting goes on, and this will be costly for our government," military spokesman Brigadier-General Restituto Padilla told a news conference.
"This is why our government has seen it fit to provide the armed forces of the Philippines additional funds to allow us to secure the things we will need to finish this fight," Padilla said.
He said government forces had spent three billion pesos ($59 million) so far and needed more than a billion pesos to replenish munitions, fuel, and other materials in the war effort. He gave no time frame for the military campaign.
The fighting began at the end of May after a foiled attempt to arrest Isnilon Hapilon, who is on America's list of most wanted terrorists with a $5 million bounty and is said to be the leader of the IS in Southeast Asia.
Hundreds of armed militants, including foreign fighters, went on a shooting, burning and looting rampage across Marawi city, taking hostages including a Catholic priest.
The military said the raid caused the militants to prematurely implement a plot to seize Marawi and turn it into an IS caliphate in the south of the mainly Catholic nation.
The fighting has left 651 militants dead along with 45 civilians and 145 soldiers and police, with nearly half a million residents of Marawi and nearby homes forced to flee, the government said.