Australia to assist in terror fight in Marawi - Defense Secretary

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 23) — The Philippines has accepted the Australian government's offer to send two military surveillance planes in an effort to strengthen the fight against terrorism in the country.

"The Government of the Philippines has accepted an Australian offer of two Australian Defence Force AP-3C Orion aircraft to provide surveillance support to the Armed Forces of the Philippines," Australian Minister for Defence Sen. Marise Payne said in a statement released Friday.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana confirmed this, saying this would boost AFP's capabilities especially in Marawi City where government forces have been battling the terrorist Maute group for a month.

"With these AP-3Cs from the ADF, our troops can benefit from enhanced airborne surveillance of the area any time of the day thereby improving operations on the ground," Lorenzana said in a statement.

He added the aircraft will be deployed to Marawi.

"The AP-3C Orion aircraft will immediately assist in the ongoing operations as soon as the AFP and ADF finalize operational details. The operation of these aircraft will not require the embedding of ADF personnel with Filipino troops on the ground," Lorenzana explained.

READ: PH military: No U.S. troops fighting alongside PH troops

Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella also said the assistance could help resolve the Marawi crisis.

"We would gladly welcome any form of foreign assistance allowed under our Constitution to help suppress the rebellion in Marawi," Abella said in a press briefing on Friday.

AFP spokesperson Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla this arrangement comes with limitations.

"They have offered to help. This, however, should be limited to what is allowable under the law," he told CNN Philippines.

This is the first time the Philippines is getting planes of this model, which, according to the Royal Australian Air Force, is capable of land and maritime surveillance, anti-submarine and anti-ship warfare, naval fleet support, and search and rescue operations.

It is a variant of the P3 Orion spy plane provided by the United States Navy earlier this month also to assist in Marawi.

READ: AFP chief: 40 foreign terrorists in PH; more may arrive in coming months

In its statement, the Australian government also condemned the attack on Marawi.  The Maute group has reportedly pledged  allegiance to international extremist Islamic State (ISIS), also referred to as Daesh.

"The regional threat from terrorism, in particular from Daesh and foreign fighters, is a direct threat to Australia and our interests. Australia will continue to work with our partners in South East Asia to counter it," Payne said.

The defense minister said  she has already spoken with Lorenzana on how to fight extremism in the country.

"We agreed the best way to defeat terrorism in our region is for us to work together," she said.

The Philippines and Australia have an extensive Defence Cooperation Program that includes counter-terrorism.

READ: PH, Indonesia, Malaysia hold talks to come up with concrete ways to fight extremism

On Thursday, foreign ministers as well as top security and intelligence officials of the Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia met to discuss ways to combat extremism.

With the Maute group believed to be working with foreign terrorists, including Indonesians and Malaysians, the trilateral effort could  help the Philippines identify foreign terrorists and prevent their entry to the country.