Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) Congressman Win Gatchalian urged the government to join the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) amid the threat of existing extremist groups in Southeast Asia to congregate under the extremist organization.
Gatchalian, a majority member for the House Committees on Foreign Affairs, also supported appeals in the Senate for an increase in next year’s budget for the Department of National Defense (DND) considering the global terror threats and concerns in the country’s security.
The lawmaker made the calls following a report by Reuters quoting Nur Jazlan Mohamed, Malaysia’s deputy home minister, as saying it is possible that terror attacks similar to those done in Paris can be launched by fighters coming back from Syria in Southeast Asia.
“Our government must consider being part of the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL. We live in a very interconnected world and the terror attacks happening in one part of the globe may happen in our region, especially that we have a terror group in our own backyard that already swore allegiance to ISIS. The problem becomes bigger if the Abu Sayyaf joins forces with other militant groups to form an ISIS province in Southeast Asia,” explained Gatchalian”
The Philippines is not explicitly included in the list of countries that have joined the said coalition, but in a resolution adopted by the United Nations Security Council on Nov. 20 following the attacks by ISIS in Paris that killed 130 people, all able states were called upon to “redouble and coordinate their efforts to prevent and suppress terrorist acts committed specifically by ISIL also known as Da’esh,” described as “a global and unprecedented threat to international peace and security.
Gatchalian pointed out that given the current situation, the DND’s budget should be augmented since is one of the crucial institutions concerned with protecting the country from such threats. “Now, we not only have to face threats to our sovereignty from China but also threats by Islamist extremists.”
“Given the global threat by ISIS, I ask the Department of Budget and Management to reconsider Senator Legarda’s original proposed budget of P202.3 billion for DND which was cut to P116.3 billion. We must act now and be proactive in eliminating terror threats before it’s too late,” said Gatchalian.
He recalled that there have been reports of two alleged fighters who died in Syria who were described as Abu Sayyaf members, while another dead fighter was described by a military source as coming from the Philippines.
Gatchalian has warned the government to keep a tight eye on Abu Sayyaf following reports that ISIS and the said local terror group have dispatched suicide bombers to Malaysia.
Although the APEC summit is over, Gatchalian said this should not be a reason for the Philippine National Police (PNP) and other concerned law enforcement agencies to be lax against possible terrorist attacks.
“The potential threat of ISIS should never be underestimated, considering ISIS has always relied on foreign fighters to do its bidding both in the Middle East and in countries where the fighters originate, as ISIS has told fighters to stay in their countries and wait for their activation,” said Gatchalian, a majority member of the House committees on foreign affairs and on local government.
In a leaked police circular, ISIS and Abu Sayyaf members held a meeting and sent suicide bombers to Malaysia, where the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit was held.
The Abu Sayyaf group has abducted two Canadians, a Norwegian, and a Filipino from a luxury holiday resort and showed a video of the victims, in which they pleaded for their lives.
The Philippines previously joined the US coalition against Iraq in 2003 but was dropped after then-President Gloria Arroyo withdrew a humanitarian force in the following year in exchange for the release of a Filipino truck driver. (Monica Cantilero)