PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte and United States (US) Secretary of State Rex Tillerson never discussed the US government's alleged plan to launch airstrikes in strife-torn Marawi City during the latter's courtesy call in Malacañang Palace, an official said Tuesday.
"This (US' planned airstrike in Marawi City) was not taken up during the meeting between President Duterte and Secretary Tillerson," Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said in a statement.
Abella's statement came after reports that the US is mulling to conduct airstrikes in besieged Marawi City, with a goal to fight Jihadist militant group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (Isis), who allegedly pledged allegiance to Maute terror group in order to establish a caliphate in the southern Philippines.
The government forces have been fighting the Maute rebels for over two months after the militants laid siege to Marawi City on May 23. The armed conflict prompted Duterte to declare martial law in Mindanao, which was extended until December 31, 2017.
Tillerson, who arrived in Manila to attend the 50th Asean ministerial meetings and related meetings, paid a courtesy call on Duterte at the Malacañang Palace on Monday, August 7.
Duterte, in an interview with Palace reporters, said human rights' issues were not tackled during his meeting with Tillerson. He said they merely talked about terrorism.
In a separate statement released Tuesday, Abella said Tillerson reaffirmed the US' commitment to providing assistance to the Philippine government to end the hostilities of the terrorists in the south.
"Secretary Tillerson reiterated his country's strong and sustained support for the Philippines' fight against terrorism and offered their assistance for the rehabilitation of Marawi," he said.
The US has pledged to help the Duterte administration in restoring normalcy in Marawi City.
Apart from the issue of terrorism, Abella said Duterte and Tillerson also had shared their "frank" views concerning regional issues, such as the disputes in the resource-rich South China Sea and the growing tensions in the Korean Peninsula.
"President Duterte and Secretary Tillerson emphasized that the Philippines and US have shared values that form the foundation for broadening collaboration. Both exchanged frank views on the South China Sea, Korean peninsula, and other regional developments," the presidential spokesperson said.
Abella said the two also had a "comprehensive" discussion on the strong alliance and robust bilateral partnership of both the Philippines and the US.
He added that they also tackled the need for improved cooperation to address the drug proliferation, which is considered as a growing problem in both countries. (SunStar Philippines)