Duterte bares new ISIS threat in Mindanao; 20,000 more soldiers needed – senators

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 2) — President Rodrigo Duterte revealed terror threats posed by international terrorist network ISIS in several parts of Mindanao, senators said.

In a meeting with lawmakers on Tuesday, Duterte informed them of new and "serious" plots to sow terror in the southern Philippines, Senator Franklin Drilon told reporters on Wednesday.

The military needs around 20,000 more soldiers, Drilon said as he recalled details from the meeting. This was also the figure that Duterte mentioned in a media briefing following his second State of the Nation Address last July 24, as he promised to strengthen the Armed Forces.

"He informed us of that renewed threat because the secretary of national defense (Delfin Lorenzana) has requested for additional manpower, and, therefore, that would require budgetary allocation," said Drilon, who is the Senate minority leader.

In the proposed budget for 2018, the Department of National Defense sees an increase by 5.5 percent to P145 billion.

"Meron discovered new plans of terrorist in other areas in Mindanao," Senator Tito Sotto, majority leader, said Tuesday in a text message to CNN Philippines.

These were on top of the armed conflict between government troops and ISIS-linked Maute in Marawi City in Lanao Del Sur.

Aside from Sotto and Drilon, House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and House Majority Floor Leader Rudy Fariñas were also present in the three-hour meeting with the President.

Sotto said Duterte gathered the lawmakers to keep them posted on national security developments and to hear their input.

Duterte meets with lawmakers on a regular basis. On July 17, he hosted a dinner where he asked the senators for a 60-day extension of Proclamation no. 216 which implemented martial law in Mindanao. The next day, he wrote a formal letter to Congress leaders requesting for a 150-day extension of military rule.

The Senate and House of Representatives on July 22 – the same day Proclamation no. 216 expired – granted Duterte's request to extend martial law until December 31, 2017.

Read: Congress grants Duterte's request to extend martial law in Mindanao until end of year

The Palace has said the government will refocus its attention to putting a stop to the spread of terrorism in the region.

"The extension of martial law is essential to the overall peace and stability. The rebellion in Marawi continues to persist and we want to stop the spread of the evil ideology of terrorism and free the people of Mindanao from the tyranny of lawlessness and violent extremism," Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said on July 22.

The U.S. State Department in a report released July this year said parts of Mindanao became an "ISIS safe haven" in 2016, as local terror groups pledged allegiance to the world's most ruthless terrorist network. It also placed the Philippines as among the top five nations with the most number of terrorist attacks last year.

In August 2016, Duterte warned the military of an "ISIS disease" spreading in parts of Mindanao, which he said could be the country's big problem in three to seven years, next to illegal drugs.